The decision to exempt World number one Novak Djokovic from Covid vaccination has provoked varied reactions ahead of this month's Australian Open.

Djokovic voiced his opposition to the Covid-19 vaccine in April 2020 when it was suggested they might be obligatory for tournaments.
Djokovic voiced his opposition to the Covid-19 vaccine in April 2020 when it was suggested they might be obligatory for tournaments. (Reuters)

The decision to grant World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic a medical exemption from having a Covid vaccine has received critical reactions.

All participants at the first Grand Slam of 2022, which starts on January 17 in Melbourne, must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a medical exemption, which is granted only after assessment by two panels of independent experts.

Tournament chief Craig Tiley said that the defending champion had been given "no special favour" but urged the Serb to reveal why he got the exemption to soothe public anger.

The nine-time Australian Open champion announced late Tuesday he was en route to Melbourne with "an exemption permission", ending the drawn-out saga over whether he would defend his title.

Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice-president, said it sent an "appalling message" to people trying to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison said that if the reasons for Djokovic's exemption were "insufficient" then the Serb would be "on the next plane home".

READ MORE: Djokovic gets vaccination exemption to play Australian Open 2022

Mixed reactions

The decision to exempt Djokovic was condemned by journalists and former athletes in Australia. There were mixed reactions on the streets of Melbourne with some highly condemning the decision and others accepting the assessment process.

Seven-times Grand Slam doubles champion Jamie Murray was among those to question the decision to grant Djokovic an exemption.

"I mean, 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," the Briton said during the ATP Cup in Sydney.

American tennis coach Paul Annacone said it was his understanding that applications for medical exemptions were done anonymously.

"If that integrity is upheld, then what's done is done. But there's going to be a lot of questions asked."

Tournament chief Tiley said the two panels assessed each exemption without knowing the identity of the applicant and he did not know under what grounds Djokovic got the green light, which is confidential.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies