Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Novak Djokovic has appeared on the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open. The world No 1 has put himself down to play the season-opening Grand Slam in Melbourne after months of speculation that he would not play after tournament organisers introduced a vaccine mandate. The nine-time Australian Open has refused to disclose his vaccination status but it has now been suggested he may have found a loophole which would allow him to play under a medical exemption even if he is not jabbed.
There have been question marks surrounding Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open for several months.
When it emerged that government officials were considering making vaccination mandatory for all players competing at the Melbourne Grand Slam, the world No 1 admitted he “didn’t know if [he] was going” as he refused to disclose his vaccinationstatus.
The nine-time Aussie Open champion has since played coy and not revealed his final decision on playing the event, telling reporters “we’ll see” and “you’ll know very soon” in recent press conferences.
It seems the question has now been answered, as Djokovic has appeared on the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, published on Wednesday.
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It comes a day after the 34-year-old appeared on the ATP Cup entry list, set to represent Serbia at the team event taking place in Sydney from January 1.
However, it has now been suggested that Djokovic – who is aiming for a record 21st Major title – may be looking to use a loophole that could see him compete even if he isn’t vaccinated.
Australia’s Herald Sun and 7 News Melbourne reported that the 20-time Grand Slam champion would possibly be applying for an “exemption to enter Australia on medical grounds”, meaning he would be allowed in without needing the jab and would benefit from more freedoms than unvaccinated members of the public.
The Victorian government has remained firm on their stance not to make any exceptions for tennis players throughout talks of a vaccine mandate, and deputy premier James Merlino has stood by this view.
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“Medical exemptions are just that. It’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition,” he told 7 News Melbourne.
Any exemption would also need to be certified by an Australian medical practitioner.
Furthermore, Tennis Australia has denied that it is “seeking to exploit loopholes for unvaccinated tennis players.”
“[Djokovic] is coming under the same regulations that the government set out. Tennis Australia, nobody’s trying to do anything special for him to be here,” retired pro and Tennis Australia official Todd Woodbridge told 7 News Melbourne.
Tennis Australia has since responded, with a spokesperson saying: “[The rules] include certified proof of vaccination or a valid medical exemption approved by Australian medical officials.
“What has also been made clear by health officials is that international arrivals who don’t meet these requirements will need to quarantine for 14 days.”
While there had once been hope for unvaccinated players to enter the country provided they completed a mandatory two-week quarantine, this possibility was scrapped when Tennis Australia boss and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley announced the vaccine mandate on November 20.
“There’s a lot of speculation about vaccination and just to be really clear, when the Premier announced that everyone on site will need to be vaccinated, we made that clear to the playing group,” Tiley said at the time.
“[Novak] has said that he views this as a private matter for him. We would love to see Novak here – he knows that he’ll have to be vaccinated to play here.”
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