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In a fairly spectacular backflip from Tennis Australia, Novak Djokovic has been granted a medical exemption to play at the Australian Open, despite his refusal to divulge his vaccination status.
Backlash has been building online since the announcement and attendees are now threatening to boycott the event and ask for a refund.
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said last year the world number one wouldn't be able to play at the event unless he either got vaccinated against Covid-19 or provided medical records showing he had been vaccinated.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.- Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
I've spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I'm heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let's go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
That stance has since apparently been repealed as Djokovic tweeted he would be playing at the event after receiving a medical exemption.
Craig Tiley, the boss of Tennis Australia, defended the decision on 3AW, saying no rules were changed to allow Djokovic to play.
He said of 26 players who applied for medical exemption, almost 80 per cent were rejected, and no rules were bent to allow the world number one to attend the event. Seems convenient.
Now Australian Open fans are responding to the announcement, threatening to boycott the event over the decision.
After everything Victorians have been through, Novak Djokovic getting a vaccine exemption is nothing short of a kick in the guts. All those lockdowns, all that suffering. Seriously? #auspol- Dr Kate Miller (@DrKate_Miller) January 4, 2022
The only excuse I'll accept for Novak getting an exemption is that he's transporting 1.5 million RATs into the country in his arse.- Kirsty Webeck (@KirstyWebeck) January 4, 2022
Novak Djokovic is the greatest tennis player ever. Forget Laver, Agassi ,Federer,Sampras,Nadal,McEnroe,Connors and Borg for Novak has won 20 Grand Slams and 87 titles and a billion dollars without us knowing he had a debilitating medical problem.We have been taken for fools. Kb- Kevin Bartlett (@KevinBartlett29) January 4, 2022
Pete Evans has just been given a wildcard. He's playing Novak centre court Rd 1. Spectators remember, no jab, no entry. #AusOpen- Dave Hughes (@DHughesy) January 4, 2022
Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 before, has not confirmed if he is vaccinated or not, saying the information is a private matter and he won't disclose it to attend the event.
Melburnians in particular have, understandably, objected to the announcement after several extended lockdowns over the last two years which have seen them spend months on end in isolation.
Vaccination exemptions are supposed to only be provided in Australia to people who have experienced anaphylaxis after a previous vaccine or an ingredient in the provided jabs.
They can also be given to people who are immunocompromised in some circumstances.
Players were asked at the ATP Cup, which is currently underway in Sydney, were asked how they felt about the news.
Australian players James Duckworth and Alex de Minaur sounded less than impressed by the decision.
"I don't know the criteria for exemptions, apparently it's an independent panel, he must have fit the criteria somehow, so, yeah, if he's fit the criteria, then, yeah, he should be able to come," said Duckworth.
"That's very politically correct of you," replied De Minaur.
"I just think it's just very interesting, that's all I'm going to say. But, hey, it is what it is, I just hope that the other players that I heard there were other cases as well, they got exemptions, so I hope they will all fit the criteria."
Scott Morrison said as recently as December that Djokovic would not receive any special treatment that would allow him to play at the event, as did Victoria's Deputy Premier James Merlino.