Novak Djokovic: After ATP Cup withdrawal will he play 2022 Australian Open, could he get medical exemption?
Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the ATP Cup, but will he play the 2022 Australian Open and when would he need to arrive in Australia to feature at the Grand Slam? Djokovic has not yet revealed his Covid-19 vaccination status and it has been reported that he is trying to get a medical exemption to play. Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+.
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It has been speculated that Djokovic never intended to play the ATP Cup and put his name on the entry list to ensure that Serbia qualified, with places at the tournament determined by a country's top-ranked player.
If Djokovic had not been listed on the team it is unlikely that Serbia would have qualified. Now their qualification has been confirmed they will remain in the ATP Cup, even though Djokovic has withdrawn and world No. 33 Dusan Lajovic is their next highest-ranked player.
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And there is of course the all-important ‘V’ word – vaccination.
With three weeks to go until the 2022 Australian Open, it is still not known if Djokovic has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic has made comments in the past that suggested he is not in favour of mandatory vaccination, but anyone playing this year’s Australian Open, or any of the warm-up events around the country, needs to have been jabbed, or have a medical exemption.
What timescale is Djokovic now on?
If Djokovic intends to play the Australian Open he will have to land in the country soon.
Chartered flights organised by Tennis Australia have started arriving this week, bringing with them the likes of defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka and Americans Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers and Mackenzie McDonald.
Djokovic, who is on the official entry list for the Australian Open, has not been seen yet, although he does also have the option of coming on a commercial flight. That, though, could increase the risk of catching Covid-19.
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When players arrive they need to isolate until they return a negative test result. If a player tests positive upon arrival, as world No. 14 Denis Shapovalov has done, they will need to quarantine for 10 days.
There’s also a chance that if Djokovic arrives soon he could still play a warm-up event. There are ATP 250 tournaments in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in the fortnight leading up to the Australian Open.
Why has Djokovic not revealed if he has been vaccinated?
Seemingly because he believes it is a personal choice and it is not something he wants to share.
However, by not sharing, Djokovic’s vaccination status has become the big story around the Australian Open. If he has been vaccinated all along then it might well be asked over the next few weeks why he has allowed the story to get to such levels.
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Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley spoke to Djokovic recently but, because of privacy protocols, he does not know if the world No. 1 is vaccinated or has requested a medical exemption. The information is unlikely to be disclosed unless done so by Djokovic.
“If Novak shows up at the Australian Open, he’ll either be vaccinated or he’ll have a medical exemption,” said Tiley. “It’s his choice on his medical condition, it’s his choice to keep personal and private like all of us would do with any condition we may or may not have. We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose that.”
Could Djokovic get a medical exemption?
It has been reported that Djokovic has been trying to get a medical exemption which would allow him to play the Australian Open without being vaccinated.
Tiley has previously said that players applying for a medical exemption will have their case reviewed by an independent three-person panel which would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice. Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula said the process could set a precedent for other big events.
Whether Djokovic would be granted a medical exemption – and on what grounds – is uncertain and would remain confidential.
If Djokovic does secure a medical exemption then he will be able to follow the same rules "as for travellers who are fully vaccinated".
What does Djokovic’s withdrawal mean for the ATP Cup?
Aside from losing its top-ranked player, the ATP Cup has also been hit by several other withdrawals.
France have been added to the 16-team tournament, replacing Austria after Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak both pulled out.
World No. 35 Ugo Humbert will lead the France team and will be joined in Sydney by Arthur Rinderknech, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Fabrice Martin.
Russian trio Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy have all pulled out after positive Covid-19 tests, and Evgeny Karlovskiy will join the team, which is led by world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. Austin Krajicek has also withdrawn from the USA team, but not be replaced at this time.
Cameron Norrie, Daniel Evans, Liam Broady, Joe Salisbury and Jamie Murray form the Great Britain team.
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Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+