The decision to award the world’s number one tennis player Novak Djokovic Medical exemption Traveling to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title drew outcry from social media and criticism from other athletes, medical professionals and politicians.
The Serb, who is seeking a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, has consistently refused to disclose whether he has been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
He has been opposing vaccine authorization and calling for freedom around the world. On Tuesday, Djokovic wrote on Instagram that he has an “exempt license.”
Happy New Year! I wish you health, love and happiness at all times, and may you feel love and respect for all sentient beings on this beautiful planet.
I had a wonderful time with my loved ones during the break, and today I will go to Down Under with an exemption. Let’s go for 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
The Australian Open organizers responded quickly and issued a statement confirming that Djokovic was heading to Australia to participate in the game that started on January 17.
The statement said: “Djokovic applied for a medical exemption, which was obtained after a rigorous review process involving two independent teams of independent medical experts.”
The Victorian government stipulates that all players, staff and fans participating in the Australian Open must be fully vaccinated unless there is a real reason to grant an exemption.
On Wednesday, Australia’s daily COVID-19 cases hit a record high for the third consecutive day, further increasing the pressure on hospital resources and testing facilities, as the public became increasingly angry about the rapidly evolving Omicron outbreak.
Officials reported a record 64,758 new cases on Wednesday, most of which occurred in New South Wales and Victoria, the country’s most populous state.
Who knocked Djokovic out #AusOpen Maybe you never need to buy beer in Australia anymore.
-Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) January 4, 2022
After the announcement, former Australian rules player Kevin Bartlett said on Twitter that the Australians were “considered as fools”.
Another former player, Corey McKernan, wrote on Twitter: “People who are dying/needing emergency treatment cannot enter their own state. You tell people they can’t go to Coles or Cafe, but if you are number one in the world, will you get a pass?”
In the past two years, many Australians, especially Melburnians hosting the tournament, have been subject to a series of long-term blockades.
The federal and state governments vigorously promote the importance of vaccination. As a result, 90% of people over the age of 16 have received double injections, and enhancement plans are being launched.
“It sends a shocking message to millions of people seeking to reduce the risk of #COVID19Aus to themselves and others. #vaccination shows respect, Novak,” said Stephen Panis, former vice president of the Australian Medical Association Specially wrote.
“I don’t care how good his tennis players are. If he refuses to be vaccinated, he should not be allowed in.”
The Australian tennis boys went to the centre court to participate in Novak Djokovic’s game: pic.twitter.com/OvufsnsHEL
— Byron Kaye (@byronkaye) January 4, 2022
The Australian Tennis Association and the Victorian Government stated that Djokovic did not receive any special treatment during the blind trial.
The Australian Tennis Association stated that the process includes “editing personal information to ensure the privacy of all applicants” and deleting the details of name, age and nationality.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said that a “fair and independent agreement” was established for evaluating medical exemption applications, while Djokovic went through “completely legal applications and procedures.”
On Wednesday, Tilly said that 26 players or support personnel had applied for medical exemptions anonymously, but only a “few” were approved.
Last month, Victoria’s Lieutenant Governor James Merlino insisted that medical exemption would not be a “loophole for privileged tennis players” and would only be possible “if you suffer from an acute illness in special circumstances”.
“A lot of people in the Victorian community will find this a disappointing result, but the process is the process,” Jara Pulford, the state’s acting minister of sports, said on Wednesday. “No one will receive special treatment because of who they are or what they have achieved professionally.”
After all the Victorians have gone through, Novak Djokovic’s guts to get a vaccine exemption. All the blockade, all the pain. seriously? #auspol
— Dr. Kate Miller (@DrKate_Miller) January 4, 2022
Some players expressed surprise at the ruling, including British doubles player Jamie Murray who said at the ATP Cup in Sydney: “I think if I hadn’t been vaccinated, I would not be exempted.”
There was also anger on the streets of Melbourne. Resident Ron Wilson told AFP: “I think this is disgusting. I think he should make up his mind before then. Letting him play should not be the last-minute decision.”
There is no upper limit on the number of spectators in the 2022 Championship, and there is no strict hotel quarantine for players. However, admission is required to provide proof of double COVID-19 vaccination, and players will be tested daily.
Djokovic will avoid hotel quarantine upon arrival. Tourists to Australia can enjoy the medical exemption for vaccination, and the treatment is the same as that of fully vaccinated people.
The 34-year-old Djokovic won 9 of his 20 Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open. He shared most of the Grand Slam men’s records with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
I have always been a supporter of Dan Andrews, the state government, and Vic Health, but I totally disagree with the decision to grant Djokovic an exemption. This was a blow to many Victorians, and I cannot understand why this happened. #DjokovicOut
-Donna McKinnon 🐀🐯🌏🌈💉💉💉 (@DMacKinnonAU) January 4, 2022