‘A kick in the guts’: Novak Djokovic’s vaccine exemption for Australian Open leaves fans furious

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has been criticised after being given a medical exemption to attend the event in Melbourne.

All players must be vaccinated to compete unless they have medical reasons as to why they haven’t had their jabs. It was unknown whether Djokovic would attend due to the uncertainty over his vaccine status but the world No 1 confirmed on Tuesday he’ll be there.

The star wrote on social media: “Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022.”

This has caused uproar among fans with many pointing to state guidance in Victoria which doesn’t allow entry for unvaccinated people unless they have a 14-day quarantine stay in a hotel. The Australian Open begins on 17 January.

While the Serb’s supporters reacted with delight at his inclusion in the tournament, critics were less pleased.

“So vaccinated Australians weren’t allowed to cross state borders to see their dying loved ones,” one said on social media, “but Novak Djokovic is allowed to come here (possibly unvaccinated) from overseas to hit a tennis ball. Unbelievable.”

Another added: “Watching the Australian Open every January is my favourite sports viewing. The decision to allow Novak Djokovic to participate when he’s unvaccinated means I must boycott your telecast this year. Utterly appalled by this.”

And a third said: “After everything that Victorians have been through, Novak Djokovic getting a vaccine exemption is nothing short of a kick in the guts. All those lockdowns, all that suffering. Seriously?”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said the star needs to prove his exemption or return home. “We await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that,” he said.

“If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.”

Tennis Australia (TA) and Victoria state authorities have insisted Djokovic hasn’t been given special treatment. But TA’s CEO Craig Tilley admitted he did see how his comments about vaccines in recent years has caused a backlash.

Tilley said: “We completely understand and empathize with… people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination.

“However it is ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition, if he chooses to do that, and the reasons why he received an exemption.”

And acting Victorian Sports Minister Jaala Pulford added: “I think lots of people in the Victorian community will find this to be a disappointing outcome.

“But the process is the process; nobody has had special treatment. The process is incredibly robust. It’s de-identified and we are where we are, and so the tennis can begin.”

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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