Djokovic gets medical exemption to defend Australian Open title

Novak Djokovic is headed to the Australian Open in a bid to win his 21st Grand Slam title.

Djokovic said that he has been granted an exemption permission to enter Australia and participate in the tournament.   -  Getty Images

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defence by announcing on Tuesday that he would compete at the season's opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world number one, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia's quarantine rules.

"I've spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I'm heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let's go 2022," the Serbian said on Instagram.

Organisers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

Tennis Australia said last month the panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

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Applicants that pass an initial stage will be subject to a second review conducted by a government-appointed panel before the application is submitted to the Australian Immunisation Register.

Djokovic's father Srdjan had told a Serbian television channel that his son would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia's stance on mandatory jabs was tantamount to "blackmail".

Djokovic pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts over his participation in the year's first Grand Slam.

"I'm ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition. Thanks everyone for the support," Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a picture of him in an airport.

He heads to Australia having trained in Marbella, Spain over the last few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

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