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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, January 7, 2022


Tennis Australia misinformed Novak Djokovic and others they could play the Australian Open without being vaccinated, a new document reveals.

Photo credit: Getty

Words have consequences and Tennis Australia's statements sparked the Novak Djokovic debacle, a new document reveals.

Tennis Australia misinformed Djokovic and other players they could play the Australian Open without being vaccinated.

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A bombshell leaked document published by The Herald Sun shows in early December Tennis Australia sent the ATP an Information Sheet criteria for players to compete at the 2022 Australian Open. The ATP forwarded the document to players, including Djokovic.

The leaked document says players require an initial overseas medical exemption to enter Australia and a second medical exemption to play the AO, which starts on January 17th. The second medical exemption must be approved by an independent Australian medical practitioner or panel of expert medical personnel before an independent panel would review all exemption applications by December 10th. 

The TA document also states players who have contracted COVID-19 in the past six months may be eligible for a temporary medical exemption to play the Melbourne major.

"The following has now been clarified as a category for which you may be eligible for a temporary exemption," the TA Information Sheet said. "Recent PCR-confirmed SARS-Co-V-2 infection (after 31 July 2021) where vaccinations can be deferred until 6 months after the infection."

Djokovic tested positive for the virus last month, the Associated Press reports citing court documents in Djokovic's visa appeal. Though Djokovic was granted a medical exemption after the two independent panels review that was supported by the TA and Victoria authorities, that exemption was ruled invalid by federal border authorities and Djokovic's visa was denied.

Citing court documents, the AP reports Djokovic received a letter from Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer on December 30th “recording that he had been provided with a ‘medical exemption from COVID vaccination’ on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID.”

For now, the world No. 1 sits in a Melbourne immigration hotel while his team of lawyers will appeal his visa denial in a federal circuit court on Monday. At the core of the case is whether the federal ruling overrides Victoria's state

AO Letter

AO Letter

AO Letter

Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic was initially granted a medical exemption to defend his title. However, upon his arrival in Melbourne Djokovic's visa was denied by Australia's Border Force.

The document published by The Herald Sun comes after The Sydney Morning Herald reported Tennis Australia was told twice in writing by federal health authorities that those players who were not vaccinated and had contracted COVID-19 in the last six months would not be granted quarantine-free entry into the nation.

Australian health officials sent two letters to Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley—one on November 18th and a follow-up letter on November 29th—stating “people who have previously had COVID-19 and not received a vaccine dose are not considered fully vaccinated.”

Authorities told the TA those people will “not be approved for quarantine-free entry, regardless of whether they have received foreign vaccination exemptions," according to The Sydney Morning Herald report.


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Last November, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews shot down the prospect of any unvaccinated players entering Australia saying the government would not approve any travel exemptions for any unvaccinated players to enter Melbourne.

“If you want a visa to come to Australia, then you must be double-vaxxed,” Daniel Andrews said last November.

Despite all that, Djokovic seems to have been told he would be approved and was permitted to board the plane to Melbourne before his visa was rejected upon arrival.

Tennis Australia points to the two independent review panels that approved Djokovic’s medical exemption.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the TA said in a statement. “One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.

"They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group of Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.”

The world No. 1 now waits as his lawyers file a visa appeal. If the appeal is granted or if the case is adjourned then legal experts believe Djokovic will be permitted to play the AO and continue his quest for a men's record 21st major championship. However, if the appeal is denied Djokovic's AO dreams will be dashed. 

Meanwhile, Djokovic's family, fans and some fellow players are protesting his treatment.

"It's just not fair; it's not human," Dijana Djokovic told Serbian media about her son's treatment by authorities. "I just hope that he will be strong as we are trying to be very strong to give him some energy...I hope that he will win."

Though a clear disconnect between the TA and Australian government seems to have ignited this imbroglio, some players say the ball is ultimately in Djokovic's court.

Rival Rafa Nadal said ultimately if the world No. 1 wanted to play the AO he knew exactly what was required to do so.

"He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences,” Nadal told the media in Melbourne. "The only for me clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion have been suffering enough to not follow the rules."


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