Australian Open organisers say 26 players or their support staff applied for a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination but only a few were successful, as tournament chief Craig Tiley said there was “no special opportunity granted to Novak” for the world No.1’s exemption.
Amid severe public backlash to news that Novak Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open, tournament organisers defended the integrity of the review process run by the national and Victorian governments.
Nine-time champion Djokovic said on social media that he had received an “exemption permission” to travel to Australia and defend his title.
Tiley said he understood why the wider community was widely concerned by the ruling.
“People this morning would wake up to that news [and I] would completely understand and emphasise with them being completely upset with that condition,” Tiley told Nine, owner of this masthead.
“Really at the end of the day … not only was the process appropriately followed but the conditions in which any tennis player comes in – no matter who they are, conditions put on tennis and put on anyone coming into Australia by the Australian government.
Novak Djokovic is heading to Australia for the Open after being granted an exemption.Credit:AP
“We’ve made that very clear from the beginning.”
Up to 3000 tennis professionals and support staff are travelling to Australia for summer tournaments. Tiley said only a “handful” of the 26 people who sought medical exemptions had been successful.
“If they didn’t meet the guidelines, and there were many that didn’t so therefore they were rejected, but if they met the guidelines including for example – which a lot of people forget – is one of those conditions is having COVID recently, in the past six months,” Tiley said.
“Any person who met those conditions has been allowed to come in. There’s been no special favour. There’s been no special opportunity granted to Novak.“
Djokovic, who has refused to disclose his vaccination status, broke his silence on Instagram, posting a photo of him with his bags at an airport.
“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 posted.
“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission.”
Tennis Australia later confirmed Djokovic met the requirements set out in Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.
“Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia,” a Tennis Australia statement read.
“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption, which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.
“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.”
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