We want answers: Novak Djokovic urged to explain Aus Open exemption

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player
  • Craig Tiley
    South African tennis player
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has encouraged Novak Djokovic to explain why he was granted a vaccination exemption. Pic: AAP
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has encouraged Novak Djokovic to explain why he was granted a vaccination exemption. Pic: AAP

Tennis Australia (TA) and the Victorian government have implored Novak Djokovic to explain why he was granted a vaccination exemption to compete at the Australian Open.

Djokovic will arrive in Melbourne on Wednesday set to defend his title after being one of only a "handful" of exemptions granted among 26 applications from players and their support staff.

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The World No.1 confirmed on social media on Tuesday night that he had been granted permission to compete at Melbourne Park, sparking widespread backlash that officials had afforded him preferential treatment.

TA boss Craig Tiley on Wednesday denied that was the case and explained that Djokovic's application anonymously assessed by two separate independent panels of medical experts, before he was granted an exemption.

The world No.1 will avoid 14 days quarantine upon arrival with visitors to Australia who have medical exemptions treated the same as vaccinated arrivals, so will be ready to play on day one on January 17.

Djokovic also won't face any extra testing procedures during the tournament.

Tiley explained that Djokovic met the strict guidelines set by the federal government advisory group ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation).

"If I want to come as an international visitor and I'm not vaccinated, and I meet those guidelines, any medical practitioner can can grant me an exemption and add my name to the immunisation register," Tiley said on Wednesday.

"And then I'm able to come in as an unvaccinated individual, so it's not just Novak.

"He went through that process and it's completely legitimate application and process."

Tiley said he wasn't privy to the medical condition that allowed Djokovic to receive the exemption but understood the Australian public's need for answers.

"I think it will certainly be helpful if Novak was to explain the conditions in which he sought and was granted an exemption," the tournament boss said.

"We would love ... Novak to talk about it and help us with it but ultimately it's going to be up to him.

"We aren't in a position, even legally, to disclose other people's medical information.

"I would encourage him to talk to the community about it ... we have been through a very tough period over the last two years and would appreciate some answers to that."

Seen here, Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the Australian Open in 2021.
Novak Djokovic has been encouraged to explain why he was granted a medical exemption to compete at the Australian Open in 2022. Pic: Getty

Calls grows for World No.1 to explain situation

Acting Victorian Sports Minister Jaala Pulford echoed Tiley's sentiment and suggested that Djokovic owed it the Victorian public - many of whom hav been left fuming the situation - to explain why he's been granted a vaccination exemption.

“I would encourage him to the view that that’s not an unreasonable thing for the Victorian community to have answered,” she told reporters.

Responding to suggestions the World No.1 had been given preferential treatment Ms Pulford insisted: “Nothing could be further from the truth".

Djokovic isn't required to make his exemption reason public and given he refused to disclose his vaccination status last year on the grounds of privacy it seems unlikely he will share the information.

The 34-year-old took to social media on Tuesday night to announce he would be back at Melbourne Park to defend his crown, as he chases a record-setting 21st grand slam title and a 10th at the Australian Open.

"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," he posted on Instagram.

with AAP

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