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The world number 1 obtained, Tuesday, from the Australian Federation a “medical waiver” which will allow him to go to the Australian Open in Melbourne. Novak Djokovic had cast doubt on his participation for months, due to the requirement for players to be vaccinated to enter the country.
First victory for Novak Djokovic and setback for the Australian authorities. The world number 1, who has never communicated on his vaccination status, announced on Tuesday January 4 that he had obtained a “medical waiver” which will allow him to run for a 21e record Grand Slam title at the Australian Open which takes place from January 17-30 in Melbourne.
“I had a great time with my loved ones over the holidays and today I’m leaving for Down Under (Australia) thanks to a waiver,” the 34-year-old Serbian wrote on his Instagram page. to accompany a photo of him at the airport with a bag of snowshoes. “I am ready to live and breathe tennis over the coming weeks of competition. Thank you all for your support! Idemooo (Alleeeez, Editor’s note) 2022.”
Prijalo mi je da budem sa svojom porodicom i dragim ljudima, odmorio sam se od veoma duge i uspešne sezone 2021. Hvala svima na podršci! Samemooooo ’22 💪🏼
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
In the process, the Australian Federation (TA), organizer of the tournament, explained in a press release that Djokovic had “requested a medical exemption which was granted to him after a rigorous examination (of his request) involving two different and independent groups of medical experts”.
The Australian Department of Health foresees five cases for obtaining a medical waiver: having been the victim in the previous three months of an inflammatory heart disease, being in a serious and acute medical condition (having undergone, for example, major surgery or undergoing significant but time-limited medical treatment), having contracted Covid-19 in the last six months (vaccination is then postponed), having suffered a serious reaction following a previous injection of anti-Covid vaccine ( without an alternative vaccine being possible, or if the vaccine poses a risk (such as developmental or mental disorders).
>> To read: Australian Open: arm wrestling around the vaccination against Covid-19
But the TA took refuge behind medical secrecy so as not to justify the exemption issued to Djokovic. “Fair and independent protocols have been put in place to assess requests for medical exemptions to ensure a safe and enjoyable Australian Open 2022 for everyone,” said TA Chairman Craig Tiley. , in the press release.
But he then urged the player to reveal the reasons for this exemption. “It would certainly be helpful if Novak explained the terms under which he applied for and received an exemption,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I encourage him to speak to the community about this…We’ve been through a very difficult time over the past two years and I would appreciate some responses to that,” he added.
Anti-vaccination players pulled out
The world number 1 spoke out in April 2020 against compulsory vaccination, then envisaged to allow the resumption of tournaments: “Personally, I am not for vaccines. I would not like someone to force me to get vaccinated to travel.”
In December, while it was rumored that the world number 1 would be authorized to travel to Australia via an exceptional medical exemption, the Deputy Prime Minister of the State of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, had reaffirmed that no convenience waiver would be issued.
“Anyone who wants to come to the tournament, spectators, players, officials, staff, everyone will have to be fully vaccinated. The medical exemption is not a trick for use by privileged players”, insisted James Merlino at the time.
As a result, Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who refuses to be vaccinated, has given up on going to Melbourne, as has American Tennys Sandgren.
And the first negative reactions appeared in the Australian press, like the Courrier Mail which launched in one: “You must be Djoking” by playing on the word joke (joke) and Djokovic to say “You must be joking”. And announcing a “fury” after the “shock of No-Vax” (pun between Novak and no vaccine).
End of suspense
Novak Djokovic therefore puts an end to the suspense, after having cast doubt for months, due to the obligation imposed on players to be vaccinated to enter Australia, on his participation in the first lifting of the Grand Slam 2022, where he will aim for a 21e record major title after equaling Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (20) by winning at Wimbledon last year.
But the Australian Open is his favorite tournament: it was in Melbourne that he won his first Grand Slam title (2008), and no one has won as much as him (nine times).
His package without justification for the ATP Cup, a few days before this team tournament organized in Sydney from 1er as of January 9, had further heightened doubts about his participation in the Australian Open.