Novak Djokovic has been warned he faces an intense backlash following the decision to award him a medical exemption that will allow him to compete at this month’s Australian Open.
The 32-year-old will be gunning for a 10th title at Melbourne Park later this month and was cleared to play in the year’s first Major yesterday by Tennis Australia.
The governing body had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.
On Tuesday, Jamie Murray said it would have been difficult for him to get a similar exemption if he were in the Serbian’s place.
‘I mean, 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,’ the Briton said during the ATP Cup in Sydney.
‘But well done to him for getting clear to come to Australia and compete.’
Paul Annacone, meanwhile, a former coach to Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, said it was his understanding that applications for medical exemptions were done anonymously.
‘The two panels it goes through do not know who the person is, they just look at the symptoms,’ Annacone said on the Tennis Channel.
‘If that integrity is upheld, then what’s done is done. But there’s going to be a lot of questions asked.’
Annacone said Djokovic should still expect some tension from tennis fans in Australia, who have had to endure multiple lockdowns due to Covid-19 over the past two years.
‘But Novak Djokovic is pretty good when there’s a little bit of antagonism going on,’ he said.
The decision, however, was condemned by journalists and former athletes in Australia.
Former Australian Rules player Corey McKernan tweeted: ‘People with loved ones who are dying/some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states. You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re world number one you get a pass?’
While another ex-Aussie Rules star, Kevin Bartlett, said: ‘Novak Djokovic is the greatest tennis player ever.
‘Forget Laver, Agassi, Federer, Sampras, Nadal, McEnroe, Connors and Borg for Novak has won 20 Grand Slams and 87 titles and a billion dollars without us knowing he had a debilitating medical problem. We have been taken for fools.’
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