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Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination

Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination
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Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by announcing on Tuesday that he would compete in the season-opening tennis Grand Slam event after receiving medical exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination.

The world No. 1 seed, who declined to reveal his vaccination status, said earlier he was unsure if he would compete in the January 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns about Australia’s quarantine rules.

“Had a great time with my loved ones during the break, and today I’m heading down under the exemption permit. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram.

The Australian Open organizers had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the Corona virus or obtain medical exemption by an independent expert panel.

Organizers issued a statement later on Tuesday confirming that Djokovic would be allowed to compete in the Australian Open on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption, which was granted after a rigorous review process involving two independent teams of medical experts,” the statement read.

“One of these was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Committee appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They evaluated all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on vaccination guidelines.”

Tennis Australia said last month that the panel would be composed of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and general practice, and that the move was agreed jointly with the Victorian Department of Health.

Applicants who pass the initial stage are subject to a second review by a government appointed committee prior to submitting an application to the Australian Immunization Registry.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, had told Serbian TV that his son might be pulling out of the Major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory punches amounted to “blackmail”.

Djokovic withdrew from Serbia’s squad for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts about his participation in the first major tournaments of the year.

“I am ready to live and breathe tennis for the next few weeks of competition. Thank you everyone for the support,” Djokovic added in his message, accompanied by a picture of him at the airport.

He is heading to Australia after training in Marbella, Spain for the past few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three, and is in a three-way tie with 20 major tournaments with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time roster.


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