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Sky is Blue, Water is Wet: Djokovic Gets Medical Exemption to Play Australian Open

Photo: twitter @djokernole

By Ricky Dimon

An early-season piece of tennis news that is even more unsurprising than is big: Novak Djokovic has been granted a medical exemption to play the 2022 Australian Open.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, confirmed his upcoming title defense — as did Tennis Australia — on Tuesday.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission,” the world No. 1 wrote in the caption of a post on both Twitter and Instagram. Let’s go 2022!”

“Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia,” read a statement from tournament officials.

“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 (ATAGI) guidelines.”

Tournament director Craig Tiley said players, fans, and staff at the Aussie Open must be fully vaccinated unless there is a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.

“Fair and independent protocols were established for assessing medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure Australian Open 2022 is safe and enjoyable for everyone,” Tiley assured. “Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration.”

Djokovic is a nine-time champion at Melbourne Park and has won the title three times in a row. The Serb triumphed last year at the end of a fortnight marked by strict Covid-19 protocols with limited attendance and nighttime curfews.

With Djokovic playing, world No. 2 and 2021 runner-up Daniil Medvedev will be the second seed. Andrey Rublev would have been No. 4 in Djokovic’s absence, but he will have to settle for the fifth spot. Hubert Hurkacz would have been No. 8 but will now be the No. 9 seed.

This is not the first time, of course, that Djokovic is endangering the lives of other people at a Grand Slam. At the 2020 U.S. Open he infamously blasted a ball in frustration into a lineswoman’s throat. He was promptly defaulted from the tournament.

Unlike that incident, however, this time Djokovic is allowed to continue playing.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.