WORLD No1 Novak Djokovic WILL play at the Australian Open this month after controversially being given a Covid medical exemption.
The Serbian superstar has continually refused to reveal whether he has been vaccinated against coronavirus after initially stating his anti-vax stance.
Novak Djokovic will head to Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open this monthCredit: Getty
The world No1 took to social media to tell fans of the news
But doubts over his defence of the first Grand Slam of the year increased when tournament chiefs confirmed players would need to be vaccinated.
And his unexplained late withdrawal from the ATP Cup in Sydney further suggested he would not be competing in Australia.
However, Australian Open chief Craig Tiley – who previously stated Djokovic ‘knows he has to be vaccinated in order to play’ – revealed this week that some unvaccinated players have been granted special exemptions allowing them to play.
And it appears Djokovic is one of them.
The nine-time champ – including in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – wrote on social media: “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.
“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!!”
He added a photo of himself with his tennis bag packed at an airport, ready to set off for the journey.
The decision has already sparked plenty of furious reactions among tennis fans and Victoria state residents, especially with the strict lockdown rules in Melbourne for much of the last two years.
Last month, Deputy Premier James Merlino confirmed ‘medical exemptions are just that – it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players’.
Merlino added: “It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition.
“The expectation of all Victorians is that everyone who attends the Open – player, spectator, staff, officials – everyone is fully vaccinated.”
But it remains unclear why and how Djokovic has been given the pass.
A Tennis Australia statement said: “Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.
“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”
But Tiley confirmed earlier this week the reasons will remain confidential throughout the process, trying to put to bed suggestions Djokovic’s status as the world’s best player influenced the decision.
He said: “There are two medical panels that assess any application, and they assess it in a blind way. They don’t know who the applicant is.
“Against the guidelines, an exemption gets granted or not. The reason for granting the exemption remains private, between the panel and the applicant.
“We know of athletes that have applied for an exemption and in cases, it’s been granted.”
British doubles hero Jamie Murray questioned the legitimacy of the exemption.
Speaking at the ATP Cup, he said: “I think if it was me that wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t be getting an exemption.”
The Australian Open gets underway on January 17.
Should Djokovic successfully go all the way in Melbourne, he will overtake Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on to a record-breaking 21 singles majors.
Nadal, fit again after a foot injury and Covid, is already in Melbourne and has been practising with five-time runner-up Andy Murray.
Federer is absent, though, as he continues his recovery from knee surgery while Serena Williams will also be watching on from home.
US Open winner Emma Raducanu pulled out of a warm-up tournament to get some extra practice time in but is expected to be ready for the main draw.