Djokovic to defend Australian Open title after exemption from vaccination

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World number one Novak Djokovic on Tuesday said that he would defend his Australian Open title later this month after receiving a medical exemption from having a COVID-19 vaccination.

Djokovic has never spoken publicly about his vaccination status but he criticised mandates ruling that players must be double-jabbed. He previously had said that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Grand Slam 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,” Djokovic said in a tweet along with a picture of him in an airport.

Notably, organisers of the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, had stipulated that all players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel.

Djokovic had previously been named in Serbia’s team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, but then withdrew from the tournament which is a traditional warm-up for the Australian Open, raising doubts over his participation in the year’s first Grand Slam in Melbourne. However, he has now ended the speculation by revealing his vaccine exemption.

With his record nine titles, Djokovic is the most successful player in the history of the Australian Open. He is also in a three-way tie on 20 career Grand Slams titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

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