Tennis: Jamie Murray questions decision to give Novak Djokovic a medical exemption for Australian Open

Jamie Murray has questioned the reasoning behind the decision to grant Novak Djokovic a medical exemption to play at the Australian Open.

By Walter Monk
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 2:47 pm
Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption for unvaccinated players. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic will play at the Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption for unvaccinated players. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Tournament chiefs confirmed on Tuesday morning that the world number one and defending champion will compete despite having previously refused to reveal if he has been vaccinated against Covid-19, a requirement to play in Melbourne.

Djokovic initially confirmed the news on Instagram, saying: "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!!"

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had revealed this week that some unvaccinated players would be granted exemptions to play, with Djokovic now confirmed to be among them after what the tournament described as a “rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts”.

Tiley also said that the reason for granting an exemption would "remain private, between the panel and the applicant".

But speaking after Great Britain’s defeat to Canada at the ATP Cup in Sydney, Murray questioned whether preferential treatment had come into play.

He said: “I don't know what to say about that really. I think if it was me that wasn't vaccinated I wouldn't be getting an exemption. But well done to him for getting clear to come to Australia and compete.”

Asked if he thought the decision was unfair, the Scot, whose brother Andy has received a wildcard entry, added: “Well, it's whatever you want to say. That's the situation.”

Team captain Liam Broady added: “At the end of the day you kind of have to trust that he does have a valid reason for the medical exemption. That's all you can say about it, really, isn't it?”

It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Djokovic receives from the Australian public given the country was placed under one of the longest and strictest coronavirus lockdowns.

Djokovic was also heavily criticised for hosting a tournament, the Adria Tour competition in Belgrade, during the height of the pandemic. He and a number of other players subsequently contracted the virus.

Nevertheless, the Australian Open provides Djokovic with another chance to move clear of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with the three having each won 20 grand slam titles.

The 34-year-old Serbian was challenging for the calendar year grand slam in 2021 but fell short in the US Open final by losing to Daniil Medvedev, the man he beat in last year's Australian Open final.

Meanwhile, Great Britain were blown away by Canadian young guns Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov as they slumped to defeat in their second group match at the ATP Cup.

Dan Evans had given Britain a dream start when he overcame world number 14 Shapovalov in the singles opener.

But British number one Cameron Norrie was then beaten by Auger-Aliassime, who is ranked one place higher than him at 11 in the world.

The match went down to the deciding doubles rubber but Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov teamed up and swept aside Britain's doubles specialists, Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury, in straight sets.

Great Britain, Canada, USA and Germany have all won one and lost one ahead of the final day of the group stage.