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Novak Djokovic WILL play at the Australian Open, despite Covid rules barring unvaccinated players

BREAKING NEWS: Anti-vax world No 1 tennis star Novak Djokovic flies out to the Australian Open and reveals he WILL play, despite Covid rules barring unvaccinated players, as he admits he is using a medical exemption loophole

Novak Djokovic has finally ended the waiting game and announced that he is heading to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title.

The nine-times champion posted a picture of himself at an airport this morning declaring that he has gained a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid and will make the long journey south.

He has recently been pictured in Marbella practising, despite pulling out of this week’s ATP Cup competition in Sydney.

‘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.

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.  

They are also said to look at applications without knowing who has submitted them. 

Novak Djokovic will play in this year’s Australian Open after getting a medical exemption

The Serbian No 1 has packed his bags and his heading for the start of the tournament

The Serbian No 1 has packed his bags and his heading for the start of the tournament

Djokovic is well-known for his freedom of choice views on the vaccine and has previously expressed his scepticism.

There are known to be a small number of other players who have successfully applied for permissions who are already in Australia, but he is naturally the main focus of what is already proving to be a contentious issue.

What reception awaits him is unsure, both among the public and his fellow players. Melbourne has been the most locked down city in the world, and is currently seeing skyrocketing cases of the Omicron variant.

After an initially slow take-up around 85-90% of tennis players are now vaccinated. Not all of them may be delighted at the prospect of sharing a locker room with someone who has declined to do the same thing.

Djokovic is looking to defend his Australian Open title and win a record 21st Grand Slam trophy

Djokovic is looking to defend his Australian Open title and win a record 21st Grand Slam trophy

The Australian Open tournament begins on January 17 and the ATP has revealed that 95 out of the top 100 men’s players have been vaccinated.  

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.  

The world No 1 may have similar issues in getting permission to play in other Grand Slam tournaments this season. Last month, France announced that any unvaccinated players from other countries cannot compete in professional sport, raising doubts about whether he can compete at Rolland Garros. 

More to follow.