Novak Djokovic to play Australian Open with medical exemption over Covid vaccine

Novak Djokovic has confirmed his participation in the Australian Open after months of doubt.

The world No 1 had been in question after it was confirmed that all players would need to be fully vaccinated in order to travel to Australia and compete.

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, had previously ruled out disclosing his vaccination status and admitted he wasn't sure whether he was going, later backtracking and telling reporters "we'll see" when asked whether he would travel.

The Serb then put his name on the entry lists for both the ATP Cup, a team tournament held in the lead-up to the season-opening Major, and the Australian Open.

It was reported that he was looking to receive a medical exemption in order to compete in Australia and receive the same freedoms as vaccinated members of the public, but the likes of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison shut down suggestions that Djokovic would receive special treatment, saying: "Those decisions are being made by medical officials and other officials, not by politicians.

“He [Djokovic] will follow the same rules as anyone else would. There are no special rules for tennis players or anyone else."

The 20-time Grand Slam champion then failed to arrive in Australia in time for the ATP Cup, with Team Serbia captain Dusan Lajovic admitting he found out less than two days before Djokovic’s withdrawal was officially announced, telling The Australian: “We knew, I think, a day-and-a-half ago or something like that.”

The world No 33 also said his compatriot did not disclose the reason he had not made it over for the ATP Cup, and admitted that at the time, Djokovic had still not yet confirmed his Australian Open participation.

Lajovic added: “I don’t know the official reason but maybe the ATP knows. [Djokovic] just said that he’s not coming to the ATP Cup and he’s trying to get to the Australian Open. He said, ‘I’m not coming guys to the ATP Cup, we’ll see about the Australian Open.’ I mean, he didn’t specify if he’s coming or not but that he’s waiting for a decision."

On Tuesday, Djokovic took to Instagram to announce that he was heading Down Under to compete in the Australian Open, beginning on January 17, and confirmed he had received "an exemption permission" granting him entry into the country.

"Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet," he wrote.

"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 !!"

It means the 34-year-old will be in contention for both a record 10th Australian Open title and a record 21st Grand Slam title, which would make him the most decorated male singles player at Major level in history, surpassing his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

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