Novak Djokovic cops massive blow in bid for Australian Open entry

·5-min read
Victoria's deputy premier James Merlino, pictured here talking to the media in Melbourne.
James Merlino has shot down talk of Novak Djokovic being given a medical exemption. Image: Getty

Victoria's deputy premier has shot down talk of Novak Djokovic being granted a medical exemption in order to play the Australian Open in January.

Reports emerged on Wednesday that Djokovic has grounds for a medical exemption amid mystery surrounding his vaccination status.

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The men's World No.1 has refused to reveal whether or not he is vaccinated against Covid-19, putting his participation at the Australian Open under a huge cloud.

However Djokovic reportedly has the backing of Tennis Australia to apply for an exemption on medical grounds and was named on the unofficial entry list for the grand slam on Wednesday.

Government officials have been adamant for months that only fully vaccinated players, their entourages, staff and fans will be granted entry to Melbourne Park for the season's first grand slam starting January 17.

According to deputy premier James Merlino, they won't be handing out medical exemptions willy-nilly.

"My view on this is is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday.

"Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend - spectators, players, officials, staff - everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

"They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that - it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players.

"It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition.

"My view and I think the view of all Victorians, the expectation of all Victorians is that everyone who attends the Open - player, spectator, staff, officials, everyone's fully vaccinated."

Tennis Australia boss responds to medical exemption reports

On Thursday, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said applications for an exemption would be reviewed by an independent medical panel.

He said that the requests were received anonymously, meaning any potential applications by Djokovic wouldn't be treated differently to any other.

"There's a independent panel of medical specialists and they see a blind copy of the medical exemption request," Tiley told ABC News.

"And it's very specific as to what is eligible or not, and then that goes through that expert panel and they will make a call.

"At this point, it's in the process of being established so no medical exemptions that have been granted at this point."

James Merlino and Daniel Andrews, pictured here speaking to the media in Melbourne.
James Merlino and Daniel Andrews speak to the media in Melbourne. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Tiley said there were clear ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) guidelines for an exemption that he considered "different hurdles to cross".

He said he wasn't privy to any medical condition that Djokovic may have that would meet the criteria.

"There's no loophole ... international tennis players have exactly the same conditions as everyone coming into Victoria or coming to Australia," Tiley said.

"There's no benefit provided to any one of them on any condition and in any circumstance and that's been made clear to them from the beginning.

"We now are in a position where over six weeks ago only 50 per cent of the tennis playing group globally were vaccinated and now it's more than 95 per cent."

Djokovic has also been named to lead Serbia in the ATP Cup teams' event in Sydney from January 1.

On Wednesday he was listed on the Australian Open entry list in a move many thought was the strongest indication yet that he will be Down Under this summer.

However Tiley explained that the entry list wasn't final and is simply a list of all players who haven't officially withdrawn yet.

"What was published is a general entry list and as a matter of course, everyone goes on the entry list," he said.

"It's not a commitment list of about who's exactly in the draw, that comes in several weeks time."

Speaking at the Davis Cup last week, Djokovic said he would reveal whether or not he is playing the Australian Open soon.

"I know what you want to ask but I am not going to give you an answer tonight," Djokovic told a virtual news conference after a question about when he might be expected on court again.

"Obviously, Australia is just around the corner so you'll know very soon.

"I will use the next days to recover and forget about tennis. I am really tired from this season and this whole year.

"I need some family time now and we'll see what the future holds."

with AAP

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