The Victorian government won’t be handing out medical exemptions willy nilly so that Novak Djokovic can contest next month’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
That’s the blunt message from deputy premier James Merlino amid talk that Djokovic has the backing of Tennis Australia to apply for an exemption on medical grounds after repeatedly refusing to reveal his vaccination status.
Government officials have been adamant for months that only fully vaccinated players, their entourages, staff and fans will be granted entry to Melbourne Park for the season’s first grand slam from January 17-30.
But Djokovic reportedly has grounds to apply for an exemption that could enable the world No.1 to avoid 14 days’ quarantine and defend the title he won for a record ninth time this year.
“My view on this is is really clear and really simple,” Merlino said on Wednesday.
“Everyone’s looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.
“They’re the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players.
“It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition.
“My view and I think the view of all Victorians, the expectation of all Victorians is that everyone who attends the Open – player, spectator, staff, officials, everyone’s fully vaccinated.”
Djokovic was on Tuesday named to lead Serbia in the ATP Cup teams’ event in Sydney from January 1, in the strongest indication yet that the 34-year-old will be contesting the Open.
While declining to reveal whether he was on the Open entry list, TA released a statement to “confirm that everyone entering Australia for the summer of tennis will need to meet the strict requirements set by health authorities across the country”.
“These include certified proof of vaccination, or a valid medical exemption approved by Australian medical officials.
“What has also been made clear by health officials is that international arrivals who don’t meet these requirements will need to quarantine for 14 days.”