'What a Disgrace!': Furore Over Reigning Champion Novak Djokovic's Australian Open Medical Exemption

© REUTERS / LOREN ELLIOTTMelbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 13, 2021 Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his third round match against Taylor Fritz of the U.S.
Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 13, 2021  Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his third round match against Taylor Fritz of the U.S.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.01.2022
For months, there had been huge suspense over World No. 1 Novak Djokovic's participation in the Australian Open as he refused to reveal his vaccination status. According to the state of Victoria's rules, only fully jabbed players are allowed to compete in the event. But the Serbian was exempted from these requirements on Tuesday.
In the last 24 hours, a number of politicians, professional tennis players, and medics have all raked Novak Djokovic over his Australian Open medical exemption, taking umbrage at his anti-vaccination stance that he has been quite vocal about.

Amid rising furore, deputy Victorian Liberal leader David Southwick dubbed the decision of the Australian Open organisers to grant defending champion Djokovic an exemption from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination a "disgrace".
Southwick claimed that Djokovic's medical exemption would hurt the ordinary residents of Victoria as they have seen six lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus, while the 20-time Grand Slam holder would still be able to compete in the tournament despite being unvaccinated.

Former Vice President of the Australian Medical Association Stephen Parnis labelled the decision by the authorities as "appalling".
Meanwhile, a section of tennis players, including local hopefuls James Duckworth and Alex de Minaur have expressed surprise at Djokovic's medical exemption.

"Look, I don't know the criteria for exemptions. Yeah. Apparently it's an independent panel. He must have fit the criteria somehow", Duckworth said at the ongoing ATP Cup in Sydney. "That's very politically correct of you", de Minaur responded. "I just think it's very interesting. That's all I'm going to say".

Former AFL great Kevin Bartlett was much more scathing in his criticism of the decision, declaring that the island nation's public had been "fooled".
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, asked Djokovic to provide proof about why he can't be vaccinated.

Morrison even went on to warn Djokovic that if he failed to offer any evidence of his medical condition, he would not be allowed to stay in Australia and would be immediately sent back home.

"If he is not vaccinated he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons", Prime Minister Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday. "If that evidence is insufficient then he won't be treated any different to anyone else and will be on the next plane home – there should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic".

The first Grand Slam of the year gets underway in Melbourne on 17 January.
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