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Novak Djokovic and Australian Open: What is the fuss all about
Jan 7, 2022, 9:55:00 AM

Novak Djokovic and Australian Open: What is the fuss all about

The lead-up to this year's Australian Open is not about who is the favourite and who will be lifting the Grand Slam. But it has been overshadowed by the talks going around that only fully vaccinated players will be allowed to participate in the tournament.

And this talk has always ended in a debate because nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has so far refused to declare whether he has taken the Covid-19 jab or not. And this has led to his participation in doubt.

And on Thursday, after arriving on Australian soil with permission to play in the tournament thanks to a controversial vaccine exemption, Djokovic’s journey was cut short due to a visa issue that saw him face lengthy questioning from authorities at the border. It is now believed that World No.1 will be flown out of the country within 24 hours and Djoker's lawyer is expected to appeal against this decision.

How this controversy started:

1. Throughout the ongoing pandemic, the 20-time Grand Slam champion has faced criticism regarding his attitude against the virus. During his Facebook chat in April last year he said: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine to be able to travel. I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body. I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”

2. Then in June 2020, there was his ill-fated Adria Tour which was organised by Djokovic. The tournament was held in Serbia and Croatia and was denounced by the tennis press as there were no social distancing norms and the stadiums were packed. There was also leaked footage of players partying late hours and that resulted in numerous players contracting the virus. Even Djokovic and his wife were tested Covid positive.

3. Back in November of 2021, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley confirmed everyone playing would need to be fully vaccinated: “Everyone on-site, the fans, all the staff, the players, will need to be vaccinated. There’s been a lot of speculation about Novak’s position, he’s said it’s a private matter."

4. After that statement, Djokovic's dad, Srdjan Djokovic compared the Australian Open restrictions to "blackmail." Ind ann interview with Serbian television channel - Djokovic's dad said that his son won’t” play in the 2022 Australian Open.

How did Djokovic get an exemption?

There was a statement from the organisers via ESPN which stated:

“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 guidelines.”

What did Tennis Australia say on exemption?

Tennis Australia said Djokovic's exemption was granted in part by an independent panel appointed by the Victoria Department of Health. TA said the 34-year-old Djokovic had applied for a medical exemption which was granted after a "rigorous review process" involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.

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Words: Abhishek Nandwani

Image: PA