Novak Djokovic has been granted permission to defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne with an exemption from Covid-19 vaccination requirements. On Tuesday, Djokovic took to social media to make the announcement about his participation in the Tennis tournament.
He said, "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. I am ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition."
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
The tournament begins on January 17 and requires all the players and staff members to either be vaccinated against Covid or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.
This decision by the organisers has attracted the ire of Australians who haven't been able to travel within the country or globally. The decision has been regarded as highly controversial in a country that is seeing the virus spread like wildfire with the capital city, Melbourne, bearing some of the world's strictest restrictions. Not just this, netizens from across the world have reacted angrily and the exemption to play has invited major backlash.
Whoever knocks Djokovic out of the #AusOpen may never need to buy a beer In Australia ever again.— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) January 4, 2022
Calling the decision 'a kick in the gut', users expressed their frustration
After everything Victorians have been through, Novak Djokovic getting a vaccine exemption is nothing short of a kick in the guts. All those lockdowns, all that suffering. Seriously? #auspol— Dr Kate Miller (@DrKate_Miller) January 4, 2022
I've always been a supporter of Dan Andrews, the State government and Vic Health, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the decision to grant an exemption to Djokovic. It's a kick in the guts to many Victorians and I can't fathom why it's happened. #DjokovicOut— Donna MacKinnon ??????? (@DMacKinnonAU) January 4, 2022
A user called out Djokovic's 'audacity' to post about the 'exemption'
The audacity of Djokovic to post that he got an “exemption” to play unvaccinated makes me so angry and disappointed. The disrespect for the sacrifices that everyone in Melbourne has had to endure with the longest lockdown in the world over the last 22 months is just disgraceful.— Mitch (@carnesy56) January 4, 2022
A slap in the face...
Such a slap in the face to the Australian people to allow #Djokovic a vaccine exemption after what so many people endured here over the past two years. Australians weren’t even allowed to come home from overseas but apparently if you’re rich and famous, the rules don’t apply— Tahlia Hope (@TajHope) January 4, 2022
Let me see if I understand this: Naomi Osaka was forced out of the French Open because she didn't want to do media interviews for mental health reasons but Djokovic got a COVID vaccine exemption for the Australian Open?— Charlotte Clymer ?️? (@cmclymer) January 5, 2022
DJOKOVIC'S RESISTANCE TOWARDS VACCINE MANDATES
Djokovic, who is now confirmed to be unvaccinated, has been vocal about his resistance to vaccine mandates in the past, and called for freedom across the world. He been massively criticised for the same and is among the handful of players who've got the medical exemption to participate in the tournament.
The Chief Executive of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley said that 26 athletes applied for exemption permission but only "a handful" were granted, under guidelines set by federal regulators.
The state employment minister, Jaala Pulford, acknowledged that Australians would find the decision baffling, but said the board followed an “incredibly robust” process where Djokovic wasn't given any preference.
Tennis Australia also mentioned that the particpants seeking the exemption went through a two-stage process — the application was first assessed by a panel of experts in Tennis Australia, and then by the Victorian government.