Novak Djokovic will play at Australian Open after getting medical exemption from Covid vaccine

Djokovic will look to defend his title at this year's Australian Open. Credit: AP

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic has been granted a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid, allowing him to travel to Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open.

His participation in the tournament has been the subject of much speculation due to Australia's strict coronavirus vaccination requirements.

The Victoria state government has mandated all players, staff and fans attending the event must be fully vaccinated unless there is a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.

On Tuesday, Djokovic announced he had been granted "an exemption permission" to travel to Australia, with tournament organisers later issuing a statement confirming he will be allowed to compete.

Djokovic, who will look to defend his title in Melbourne, has continually refused to reveal if he is vaccinated against coronavirus.

He earlier withdrew from Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which started last weekend in Sydney.

In June 2020, the star tested positive for Covid in the wake of the Adria Tour events he helped organise in Serbia and Croatia.

The tournament, which took place in front of packed crowds with little evidence of social-distancing, was criticised by other tennis players at the time.

Nick Kyrgios called the decision to stage the event "boneheaded" while British number one Dan Evans described it as "a poor example to set".

A handful of fans in the stands at 2021's Australian Open. Credit: AP

Reaction on social media has already turned to questions about the grounds for Djokovic’s medical exemption, and what quarantine conditions he will have to meet on arrival in Australia.

The city has endured months of strict lockdowns and harsh travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.

Last year, all foreign players had to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine before the tournament got underway, pushing the year's first major back from its usual mid-January start.

There were also strict caps on crowd numbers, and several days when fans weren't allowed into Melbourne Park when coronavirus cases surged.

The 34-year-old Djokovic has won nine of his 20 major titles at the Australian Open. He shares the men’s record for most majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic celebrates with his team after winning the Australian Open in 2021. Credit: AP

"Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts," a statement from the tournament organisers.

"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 the process included the redaction of personal information to ensure privacy for all applicants, meaning Djokovic was not obliged to make his exemption public.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said "fair and independent protocols were established for assessing medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure Australian Open 2022 is safe and enjoyable for everyone.

"Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration," Tiley said.

Victoria state Deputy Premier James Merlino last month said medical exemptions were "not a loophole for privileged tennis players."

"It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition," Merlino said at a news conference.