World No 1 Novak Djokovic will play in the Covid-impacted Australian Open to defend his title, after being granted Covid exemption.
The nine-time champion posted a picture of himself at an airport on Tuesday morning, January 4, declaring that he has gained a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid and will make the long journey south.
‘I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022 !! ‘ he said on Instagram.
According to Mail Online, Australian Open organisers say the medical exemption was granted through a ‘rigorous review process’ that went via the country’s Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.
The process for getting an exemption is run independently of Tennis Australia and involves two separate medical panels from government health authorities. The guidelines for getting an exemption require an ‘acute major medical condition’ in the individual.
The government health authorities are also said to look at applications without knowing who has submitted them.
There is also a small number of other players who have successfully applied for permissions who are already in Australia.
In December, Tennis Australia unveiled its Covid-19 vaccination protocols for this year’s tournament, including the process for stars seeking medical exemptions.
If an exemption is considered valid, the medical exemption will be submitted to the Australian Immunisation Register and the identity of the player seeking an exemption will not be known. However, Djokovic has waived his anonymity in this case.
Djokovic will be joined in the Melbourne tournament by Grand Slam title rival Rafael Nadal, who touched down in Australia recently and is level with the Serbian on 20 major tournament wins.