Novak Djokovic has broken his silence and revealed he’s bound for Australia to compete in the Australian Open.
The Serbian world No.1 said on social media that he had received an “exemption permission”.
The nine-time champion has kept his cards close to his chest in recent weeks but posted a photo to Instagram with his bags at an airport.
“Happy New Year, everybody!,” Djokovic posted.
“Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission.
“Let’s go 2022!!“
A vaccine mandate is in place at Australian tournaments this summer, including the Australian Open, starting at Melbourne Park on January 17.
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 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 are heading to Australia this summer – were not obligated to disclose their status to Tennis Australia, which is 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.”
Djokovic was a late withdrawal from the Serbian team for the ATP Cup, which started in Sydney on Saturday.
In recent days footage had emerged of Djokovic, equal on 20 grand slam titles won with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, training in the south of Spain.
The reason for his ATP Cup withdrawal has not been disclosed.
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