“Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia,” a Tennis Australia statement read.
“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 (ATAGI) guidelines.”
The Victorian Department of Health also responded to the news.
“The Victorian Government worked closely with Tennis Australia to set up an independent and rigorous process to assess requests for medical exemptions at the Australian Open,” the statement read.
“Any player who is granted a medical exemption will have gone through a two-stage, independent process to verify they have a genuine medical condition that meets the criteria for an exemption.”
Australian stars Alex de Minaur and James Duckworth were two of the first players in the world to be asked about the news Djokovic would compete for his 10th Australian Open title.
“I don’t know the criteria for exemptions. Apparently it’s an independent panel. He must have fit the criteria, somehow,” Duckworth said.
“If he’s fit the criteria, then he should be able to come.”
De Minaur shared a similar sentiment to his compatriot.
“I think he’s said all the right things there,” de Minaur said of Duckworth’s comments.
“Look, I just think it’s very interesting. That’s all I’m going to say.
“But hey, it is what it is.
“I heard there were other cases as well that got exemptions. I just hope they all fit the criteria.”
While compulsory vaccination has previously applied to staff and spectators at other tournaments, the various events in Australia are the first time ATP and WTA players have been subject to the rules.
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley revealed at the weekend that a handful of unvaccinated players had been granted exemptions – but only after a process that he said was more rigorous than for other visitors to Australia.
Tiley reiterated that any exemption applications made by players were subject to scrutiny from more than one group of medical professionals.
“There are two medical panels that assess any application, and they assess it in a blind way. They don’t know who the applicant is,” Tiley said.
“Against the ATAGI [Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] guidelines, an exemption gets granted or not. The reason for granting that exemption remains private, between the panel and the applicant.”
Previously, the tournament boss said players and their support staff – about 3000 were heading to Australia this summer – were not obligated to disclose their status to Tennis Australia, which was removed from the screening process established on the ATAGI guidelines.
“The great thing is that everyone [coming to Australia] is vaccinated,” Tiley said last month.
“Everyone who is coming in is vaccinated and there will be a small percentage – a very small percentage – that will have a medical exemption.
“So if any player, fan [or] workforce is on site here – you’re either vaccinated or you have a medical exemption that’s approved and you’re on the Australian Immunisation Register.“
Australia’s Department of Health is the national body that administers medical exemptions and the recognition of COVID-19 vaccines.
But the Australian Border Force, under the Department of Home Affairs, controls entry requirements into Australia.
Said Tiley last month: “Those that would have provided him with the entry requirement – that’s the Border Force – will know that as part of your declaration in coming to Australia, a travel declaration, you declare either your [medical] exemption – which has been done by an independent panel here in Victoria of epidemiologists and doctors – or there’s your vaccine certificate which also has to be certified.”
Djokovic was a late withdrawal from the Serbian team for the ATP Cup, which started in Sydney on Saturday.
In recent days, footage emerged of Djokovic, equal on 20 grand slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, training in the south of Spain ahead of travel to Australia
The reason for his ATP Cup withdrawal was not disclosed.
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