Sports, Tennis

Djokovic gets ‘no special’ deal for AO jab exemption


By AFP
Published : 05 Jan 2022 09:04 PM | Updated : 06 Jan 2022 04:15 PM

Novak Djokovic received "no special" favours to be granted a Covid vaccine exemption to play at the Australian Open, said tournament chief Craig Tiley on Wednesday, as the move sparked a furious backlash. The nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic announced late Tuesday he was en route to Melbourne with "an exemption permission", ending the drawn-out saga over whether the world number one would defend his title.

All participants at the tournament, which starts on January 17, must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a medical exemption, which is granted only after assessment by two panels of independent experts.

The Serb has repeatedly refused to confirm if he has been inoculated and previously expressed opposition to the coronavirus vaccine.

Tiley defended the integrity of the process that reviewed Djokovic's exemption application, which is overseen by national and Victorian state governments. He revealed that 26 players or their support staff from the 3,000 or so travelling to Australia had asked for an exemption, and only a few of those had been successful.

"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," Tiley told Channel Nine television.

Melbourne and Sydney have both endured months of restrictions and lockdowns over the past two years and allowing Djokovic to travel was widely criticised.

Read more: Bangladeshi e-sports team wins Indian LAN tournament

Prominent physician Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice-president, said it sent an appalling message to people trying to stop the spread of Covid-19.

"I don't care how good a tennis player he is. If he's refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn't be allowed in," Parnis said on Twitter.

"If this exemption is true, it sends an appalling message to millions seeking to reduce #Covid19Aus risk to themselves & others."

Among the conditions allowing entry without a vaccine is if a person has had Covid-19 in the past six months. It has not been revealed if that is the case with Djokovic.

Related Topics