Novak Djokovic Will Defend Australian Open Title

Novak Djokovic Will Defend Australian Open Title Photo: TT
Novak Djokovic plays a return to Marton Fucsovics at the Paris Masters. Nov. 2, 2021. Photo credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus.

World number one Novak Djokovic is on his way to Australia to play the season’s opening Grand Slam event after being granted a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination, organizers confirmed on Tuesday.

Following a media statement issued by the Australian Open organizers, the reigning champion, Novak Djokovic, shared the news through his social media channels, posting, alongside a picture of himself at an airport: “Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love, and joy in every moment, and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.

I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break, and today, I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!

Ahead of the Australian Summer of Tennis, the state of Victoria, home to the first major of the season, introduced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for professional athletes, establishing that players would have to be fully vaccinated in order to take part in the event or have a medical exemption granted instead.

The Serbian has been one of the players who’s been skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine, declining to reveal his vaccination status.

In an interview with the Serbian publication Blicon, held in 2021, he expressed his doubts on whether he would be playing at Melbourne this season.

At the time, the 34-year-old was resuming training at the Novak Tennis Center, preparing to contest the Rolex Paris Masters 1000 in Bercy - his first tour-level event since losing the U.S. Open final to World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in September.

On Tuesday, all the questions raised disappeared, as the Australian Open organizers, Tennis Australia, issued an official statement confirming that 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 guidelines.’’

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley remarked: “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.

Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration.”

The Belgrade native will be seeking to achieve his 10th singles title in Australia, also attempting to capture his 21st career Grand Slam trophy.

In 2021, Djokovic enjoyed an outstanding season, claiming three of the four Grand Slams, Australian Open, French Open, and the Wimbledon Championships, finishing a historic seventh year-end as number one in the ATP Tour rankings.

The AO will run from January 17-30 at Melbourne Park.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and a journalist passionate about sports, particularly motorsport, tennis, and soccer

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