Ending months of speculation, World No. 1 and 20-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic will grace the courts of Melbourne Park after receiving a medical exemption to enter the country unvaccinated.
Djokovic announced on Tuesday night via his personal Instagram account that he was heading Down Under with an exemption permission, all but confirming his place in the men’s draw for the 2022 Australian Open.
Speculation on Djokovic’s pending arrival was rife after he was spotted practising at the Soto Tennis Academy in Spain with the Dunlop branded Australian Open balls last week.
The nine-time Australian Open winner has publicly refused to comment on his vaccination status repeatedly and stated he was unsure whether he would compete at the 2022 Australian Open.
Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley, is comfortable with the process that led to a panel of experts granting the Serbian permission to enter the country.
“The grounds are the same grounds that anyone can get a medical exemption,” Tiley told Channel Nine’s Today show.
“For tennis players, it was a process that goes up and beyond what anyone coming to Australia would’ve experienced simply because we had an extra panel.
“A panel of experts which, through a blind review, assessed any application and then granted exemptions if it was appropriate.
“In this case, an exemption was granted on grounds which are personal medical information which we do not receive. It is up to that applicant to disclose what those grounds were.
“We made it extra difficult for anyone applying for an application to ensure that it was the right process and to make sure the medical experts deal with it independently.
“It was ultimately the decision of the medical experts and we followed that accordingly.”
Tiley moved to reaffirm that Djokovic received no special treatment and that he went through a more stringent process than returning Australians and international guests go through.
Tiley wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Djokovic’s case and stated that it was completely up to the World No. 1 to share, or not share, the details regarding his exemption.
“That’s ultimately up to Novak, we’re not in a position to disclose that private, personal medical information that relates to someone’s condition,” Tiley said.
“The conditions of which any tennis player comes in, no matter who they are, are the conditions that have been put on to tennis and anyone coming to Australia by the Australian government.
“If they didn’t meet the guidelines and there were many that didn’t, so, therefore, they were rejected.”
Earlier this month, Djokovic had pulled out of representing Team Serbia at the ATP Cup, further adding to speculation on whether he would appear at Melbourne Park to defend his 2021 Australian Open crown.
Then, Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, spoke on Serbian television stating that his son would most likely pull out of the tournament, likening Tennis Australia’s mandatory jab policy to “blackmail”.
Yet, despite the above, the Serbian finds himself back in Australia and in the hunt for a tenth Australian Open title.
As for the reasons, one can only speculate, but Tiley did make mention of one condition in particular.
“What many people forget is one of those conditions is having had COVID recently in the past six months and any person that met those conditions are allowed to come in,” Tiley said.
“There’s been no special favour, no special opportunity granted to Novak or there would be to any tennis player.”