MELBOURNE, Australia – After months of rather unnecessary suspense, Novak Djokovic answered the question today, at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday (Tuesday morning wherever he is in Europe).
The world No. 1 will be granted a vaccination exemption, per his Instagram feed.
And he is heading to Australia to seek his 21st career Grand Slam title.
Let the fun begin.
Tennis Australia confirms the news
Less than 10 minutes ago, Tennis Australia issued a statement confirming that Djokovic had passed the rigorous exemption test, and can both enter the state of Victoria AND compete at the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated.
“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,” the statement read, in part.
It also reiterated the process.
Reaction of Aussies will be interesting
The majority of Melbourne residents have made their feelings known that an unvaccinated tennis player is not particularly welcome in their neck of the woods.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
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
They have suffered months of lockdowns through the pandemic. And they are fully vaccinated at a rate of well over 90 per cent.
In fact, they can’t even attend the Australian Open (or go to many restaurants, or participate in many other activities, or go to work) without having been double-jabbed.
It will be fascinating to see how Djokovic is received, after getting a pass on that front.
Tournament director Craig Tiley had lots of gobbledygook to add.
“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,” he said in the statement. “Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration.”
Details will be hard to come by
We may never know exactly which of the grounds for a medical exemption Djokovic fulfilled.
Certainly none of the examples cited in the material given to the players earlier in the winter seemed to apply to him.
But perhaps the list wasn’t exhaustive.
The problem, of course, is that if the justification for Djokovic’s exemption isn’t detailed, many people will assume the nine-time Australian Open champion received special treatment.
It’s come to that.
At the same time, people involved with the tournament (media, staff, officials, fellow players) have a right to know if there are any other players who also have received medical exemptions – the better to make sure to avoid them because of the potentially far more serious outcomes.
The Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire down here. And the statistics in terms of hospitalization percentages of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated are clear.
No one would want to have “giving Novak Djokovic COVID” on their conscience, given the circumstances.