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Novak Djokovic medical exemption not a special favour says tournament chief Craig Tiley, as handful approved from 26 applicants

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“Really at the end of the day … not only was the process appropriately followed but the conditions in which any tennis player comes in – no matter who they are, conditions put on tennis and put on anyone coming into Australia by the Australian government.

“We’ve made that very clear from the beginning.”

Some players have expressed surprise with the Djokovic ruling. Previously several athletes indicated they wouldn’t object to facing off against an opponent granted an exemption.

Britain’s Jamie Murray said: “I don’t know what to say about that really. I think if it was me that wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t be getting an exemption.

“Well done to him for getting clear to come to Australia and compete.”

Australia’s top-ranked man Alex de Minaur also spoke late on Tuesday, saying: “I just think it’s very interesting. That’s all I’m going to say.

“I heard there were other cases as well that got exemptions. I just hope they all fit the criteria.”

At least one player was unable to travel to Australia due to their vaccine, Sputnik V, not being recognised by Australian authorities.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva, a former world No. 54, said on Twitter last month: “Unfortunately, I will not participate in this year AO event. I’m really happy with a level of tennis I showed on a last few events and I wish to play in, but Sputnik is not verified yet.”

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Djokovic, who has refused to disclose his vaccination status, broke his silence on Instagram, posting a photo of him with his bags at an airport.

“Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” he posted.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission.”

Tennis Australia later confirmed Djokovic met the requirements set out in Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.

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

“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.”

ATAGI last month issued fresh guidelines on the acute major medical conditions that warrant a temporary medical exemption, including (for an mRNA vaccine) inflammatory heart illness in the past three months, and (for all covid-19 vaccines) major surgery or hospitalisation, having had COVID-19 (and confirmed by PCR) allowing vaccination to be deferred until six months after the infection, an adverse reaction to a previous vaccination dose, or if there is personal risk to themselves or others in the vaccination process (ie mental health).

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