Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


Without vaccination, Novak Djokovic allowed for Australian Open, but not an Indian

Anomalies are galore as 9-time Aussie Open champ Djokovic has been handed an 'exemption' to come defend his title while other 'non-elite' players are missing out.

Novak Djokovics COVID-19 test results were not false, Serbian prosecutors confirm

Novak Djokovic's COVID-19 test results were not false, Serbian prosecutors confirm (Source: AFP)


Sohinee Basu

Published: 4 Jan 2022 4:36 PM GMT

If eyebrows were not being raised already when 20-time Grand Slam champion and apparent GOAT of tennis, Novak Djokovic withdrew from the ATP Cup in Australia a few days ago, the Serb, who refuses to disclose his vaccination status, soon splashed a picture of himself smiling, all packed-up and ready to head Down Under to play the Australian Open. But, hold on - wasn't the strict vaccination measures being followed by the year's first Grand Slam the key factor causing the doubt about whether the 9-time Australian Open champion can go defend his title? Well, apparently not anymore it seems for the reigning World No. 1 as he has been granted an "exemption permission" that allows him to travel to Australia and participate, unvaccinated as he is, amidst a fresh spike of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron outbreak.

By now it isn't a well-kept secret that Novak Djokovic has always acted dodgy whenever asked about vaccination and his stances on taking the vaccine have been quite controversial and he has flat-out refused to administer the vaccination. The anti-vaxxer attitude of Novak Djokovic has been a circular problem that comes visit every now and then and not surprisingly at all, just before the 2022 Australian Open it has resurfaced again. However, the Tennis Australia authorities who have been maintaining very strict protocols regarding the virus had mandated way back in November 2021 that all staff members, players, and even those in attendance at the event must be vaccinated against coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

Because of such a stance, several players including India's Aman Dahiya have been unable to head to the Australian Open as they haven't been granted a medical exemption. The 17-year-old Dahiya, who was looking to compete in the Junior Grand Slam was told by the Australian authorities that, "Under current Australian guidelines, the applicant would be considered eligible for vaccination and therefore does not qualify for exemption." In India, vaccination drives for children below eighteen had started late, and therefore, Dahiya is not fully vaccinated and does not meet the criteria. Dahiya's coach Jignesh Rawal has said that the focus would now be to prepare Aman for the French Open in May, by which time, the vaccination process would have also been completed.

However little did anyone expect that the World No. 1 and supposedly one of the fittest athletes on the tour, Novak Djokovic would be given this free pass and exempted medically to enter the Australian Open without disclosing his vaccination status. "Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts," the statement from the Australian Open authorities read. Along with Aman Dahiya, players like France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert, two-time quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren have also withdrawn from the hard-court Grand Slam due to such vaccination requirements and not being exempted.

The rules clearly specify when a medical exemption can be granted if a) Inflammatory cardiac illness in the last three months, b) Undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness, c) A COVID-19 diagnosis that means vaccination cannot be made for six months, d) Any serious effect to a COVID-19 vaccine in the past, e) If the vaccine is a risk to themselves or others during the vaccination process and f) Underlying developmental or mental health disorders. Under such contexts, one wonders what could have been the grounds for medically exempting an otherwise fit player like Novak Djokovic from the binding protocols.

Dare we suspect a Djoker-bias?

Novak Djokovic with the Australian Open title (Source: Getty)

Novak Djokovic's outing in Melbourne will be seeing him chase a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam and also his 10th Australian Open title - both competitively good chances that would be the cause of large traction for the organizers of the event as well. While the thought of Novak Djokovic actually deciding to sit out the Grand Slam he has tasted the most success in seemed unlikely even given the odds, but the fact and the ease with which Novak Djokovic has been granted an exemption is indeed causing many fingers, eyes and questions galore to rise. And the easiest one of this is - Is the Australian Open showing bias to Novak Djokovic - the marquee player for their event?

Djokovic's post and subsequently the statement from Tennis Australia have made quite a few tongues wag on social media and doubles player Jamie Murray has already hinted at bias-play here when he said, "I think if it was me that wasn't vaccinated I wouldn't be getting an exemption".

There is plenty of outrage given this apparently partial decision that has been taken by the Australian Open to have the Serb taking part in the Happy Slam of the year. The more reasons to suspect bias-play here is easy because of Novak Djokovic's strong stances about the vaccine policies. During the ATP Finals at Turin in November, the World No. 1 player had mentioned, "The freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it's me or somebody else. Doesn't really matter whether it's vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose, to decide what you want to do. In this particular case, what you want to put in you," he had strongly suggested, never for once clearing the air about whether he is vaccinated.

While Novak Djokovic is yet to speak elaborately on this matter, for now, it suffices to say that in his chase for being the GOAT, the 34-year-old has invited plenty of doubts and speculations that are inevitably not complementing with his athletic greatness. Has Novak Djokovic simply exercised his position of privilege, especially the one he enjoys in Australia, or the rules and protocols have really been twisted and swayed to swing in the Djoker's favor, or does Djokovic really have a valid reason to be exempted medically - one will have to resort to wondering till there is more clarity, if at all, or remains foggy just like Djokovic's vaccination status.

Next Story