Novak Djokovic given 'exemption permission' to take part in Australian Open
In a decision that will likely cause controversy, Novak Djokovic will be able to compete at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic has announced he will play at the Australian Open, revealing he has been given "exemption permission" to compete.
The world number one and nine-time champion in Melbourne has not declared whether he has been vaccinated against the covid-19 virus.
Australia has stringent rules about who should be allowed to enter the country, with tennis players needing to be either vaccinated or hold a medical exemption in order to play the grand slam tournament.
Djokovic heading down under
Serbian superstar Djokovic wrote on Instagram 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. Let's go 2022!!"
Djokovic's message was accompanied by a picture of him at an airport, with a tennis racquet bag atop his luggage on a trolley, indicating he was ready to board his flight to Australia.
He told his followers: "Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love and respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet."
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Sunday he expected defending champion Djokovic's status for the event to become clear within days. The grounds for Djokovic receiving an exemption have yet to be disclosed, and it is unclear whether they will ever be made public.
The 20-time grand slam winner withdrew from the ATP Cup in Sydney last week, begging questions of whether he would head to Australia at all, but now that appears to have been cleared up.
Djokovic has steadfastly refused to disclose whether he has been jabbed. His declaration that he has been given an exemption points to him not having been vaccinated.
The 34-year-old won in Melbourne last February and followed up by triumphing at the French Open and Wimbledon to join Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 major titles.
Djokovic will be attempting to seize the outright lead by capturing a 21st slam, with the Australian Open running from January 17-30 at Melbourne Park.
He was on the same mission at the US Open but lost out to Daniil Medvedev in the New York final in September, as the Russian landed his first grand slam title at Flushing Meadows.
Medvedev was the man Djokovic beat in last year's Australian Open final, and is again expected to be a major challenger this time around.