For weeks now, the Australian media and sports media have been working themselves into a lather about Novak Djokovic. Novak has made many anti-vaxx statements in recent years, although in the last half of 2021, he just began avoiding vaccine questions altogether. Months ago, Tennis Australia announced that they would have a vaccine mandate for the Australian Open, which starts in a week and a half. Djokovic’s best event is AO, he’s won the singles title there nine times, and he’s the defending champion. So there was a lot of rumor-mongering about what would happen – would Djokovic get vaccinated for Oz? Was he already secretly vaccinated and he just didn’t want to say that? Would Djoker get a medical exemption to come to Oz? Or would he just pull out of the major, like he pulled out of the ATP Cup, the pre-AO event? There were all kinds of rumors flying around, but finally, a confirmation from the tournament: Djokovic is flying to Australia, and he received a medical exemption.
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 No. 1, 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.
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. The organisers issued a statement later on Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be allowed to compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.
“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said. “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.”
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. 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.”
Yeah, I’m sorry but this is BS. Strings were pulled, threats were issued, and money was likely exchanged. While Novak isn’t the biggest name in tennis, Tennis Australia clearly felt that they needed to do whatever they could to get him there. Novak, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer ARE the franchise for men’s tennis, and Roger’s still out with a bad knee. They felt they “needed” Novak there (Rafa is already there, because he’s fully vaccinated and boosted).
Combine all of this with the fact that in the past month, Australia’s Covid numbers have gone through the roof. I wonder if Novak will be tested regularly as part of his “exemption”? Because the chances are pretty good that his unvaxxed ass will get the highly contagious Omicron variant while he’s in Melbourne. Wouldn’t that be interesting.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.