Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, announced Tuesday he will defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne later this month after securing a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid-19, ending weeks of speculation about whether he would skip the contest over its vaccine requirements.
- In an Instagram post Tuesday, the tennis star said he was “heading Down Under with an exemption permission” to compete in the tournament.
- The post ends weeks of speculation over whether the men’s No. 1, who declined to confirm whether he had been vaccinated against Covid-19, would return to Melbourne and defend his title.
- The contest—and Australia—has strict vaccine requirements, which stipulate players must be fully vaccinated to play or secure a medical exemption from a panel of specialists.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The tournament begins in Melbourne on January 17. Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times and, along with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, holds the joint record of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles. Federer will not compete in Melbourne due to an injury but Nadal, despite recently testing positive for Covid-19, confirmed his participation.
Djokovic’s refusal to reveal his vaccination status—something he called a “private matter”—left a cloud of uncertainty hanging over his participation in major tournaments in 2022. This uncertainty intensified when the Serbian national withdrew from the country’s ATP Cup team in late December.