Novak Djokovic set to receive frosty Australian Open reception as fans react to exemption

Tennis: Djokovic slams critics after Australian Open win

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Australians have responded after Novak Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to enter the country and competing in the upcoming Australian Open. The nine-time champion in Melbourne was in doubt after it was announced that all players would need to be fully vaccinated, as he previously ruled out disclosing his vaccine status. Djokovic will now head Down Under without needing the vaccine, but will likely face a frosty reception from the crowds after an unsavoury reaction to his exemption.

Djokovic confirmed on Tuesday that he was travelling to Australia for the season-opening Grand Slam after receiving “an exemption permission”.

Tennis Australia later confirmed that the world No 1 had been granted a medical exemption “following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”

It comes after months of speculation over the Serb’s participation in the Australian Open, with even Djokovic himself admitting that he “didn’t know if [he] was going” back in October.

All players, personnel, staff and fans must be fully vaccinated in order to attend and work at the upcoming Grand Slam, which begins on January 17.

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While the world No 1 is not the only player to receive a medical exemption, he is the most high-profile and has previously hinted that he is not vaccinated against Covid.

Fans and Australian citizens have now reacted to the news that Djokovic will enter the country and benefit from the same freedoms as unvaccinated members of the public with his medical exemption, and judging by the response, he is set to face a frosty reception from fans at the Australian Open.

Dr Kate Miller tweeted: “After everything Victorians have been through, Novak Djokovic getting a vaccine exemption is nothing short of a kick in the guys. All those lockdowns, all that suffering. Seriously?”

Australian sports journalist Andy Maher also weighed in, admitting that he thought Djokovic did not deserve the exemption despite his greatness.

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“Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke – who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of the coronavirus – gets his exemption. Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential.”

The 20-time Major champion came under fire almost two years ago when he organised an exhibition event, the Adria Tour, in the midst of the pandemic during Summer 2020 with full crowds while footage showed players partying at nightclubs, which resulted in himself and several others including Grigor Dimitrov testing positive for Covid, cancelling the event.

Another Australian sports reporter, Matt Walsh, joked that “whoever knocks Djokovic out of the Aus Open may never need to buy a beer in Australia ever again.”

Meanwhile, one Melbourne resident – Karen Sweeney – hinted that the nine-time Aussie Open champion wouldn’t be taken kindly to by locals when he arrived Down Under.

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“Novak Djokovic is about to find out what it’s like to be despised by all of Australia. We’re all nice and lain back until we’re not,” she tweeted.

While Tennis Australia confirmed that Djokovic’s exemption was a medical one, the reasoning behind it has not been given.

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Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government confirmed that all applications for a medical exemption went through an independent, two-stage process to verify that the player met the criteria for an exemption.

While they have not outlined what that criteria is, the Australian Government’s Department of Health allows vaccine medical exemptions for members of the public with an “acute major medical condition” which they define as “(e.g undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness). Typically, these are time-limited conditions (or the medical treatment for them is time limited.”

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