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Djokovic to play Australian Open after receiving Covid-19 vaccine exemption

The world No 1 will attempt to win a record 21st Grand Slam title

Novak Djokovic AO media 2020 Zuma / Panoramic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic confirmed on Tuesday that he will be attempting to win a record 10th Australian Open title later this month after receiving a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccine protocols by tournament organisers.

The world No 1, who previously had refused to reveal his vaccination status, posted the news on social media, saying he was on his way to Melbourne.

All players at the Australian Open must be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they are able to convince two independent panels that they qualify for an exemption.

In a statement, the Australian Open confirmed Djokovic had applied for and been granted a medical exemption.

“Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia,” Tennis Australia said. “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. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.”

Medical Exemption Process explained

“The COVID-19 vaccination protocols for the Australian Open, including the process for players seeking medical exemptions, have been finalised by the Victorian Department of Health and Tennis Australia,” the statement continued.

“Under an independent process, applications for a medical exemption were first reviewed by an expert panel made up of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice. Applications that met the national guidelines set by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) were then subjected to a second review conducted by a Government-appointed panel of medical experts, the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel.

“The applications were reviewed and approved only in line with ATAGI guidelines. The process included the redaction of personal information to ensure privacy for all applicants. The multi-step independent review process was designed to ensure the safety of everyone at the Australian Open.

“Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said players, fans and staff at the Australian Open must be fully vaccinated, unless there is a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.

“Fair and independent protocols were established for assessing medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure Australian Open 2022 is safe and enjoyable for everyone,” Craig Tiley said. “Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration.”

Djokovic won his ninth Australian Open title last year and is bidding to win a record 21st Grand Slam title.

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