Djokovic has not been granted 'special favour' – Australian Open chief Tiley defends exemption decision

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player
  • Craig Tiley
    South African tennis player

Novak Djokovic has not been granted any "special favour" for a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open, tournament director Craig Tiley insisted.

Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he was on his way to Melbourne for the first grand slam of 2022, a revelation that was met with a host of criticism.

The world number one has not openly addressed whether he has been vaccinated for COVID-19, but protocols in Australia require proof that competitors have been jabbed or have a medical exemption to feature at Melbourne Park.

The Serbian has been vocal in his opposition for vaccine mandates, calling for freedom across the world, and is now expected to be welcomed with a frosty reception by those in the country battling a surge in cases of the Omicron variant.

Tiley spoke on the matter, coinciding with confirmation from the Australian Open that the 34-year-old was set to compete, as he referenced the "fair and independent protocols" in granting exemptions.

The tournament director has since reiterated his defence over the decision to allow Djokovic to defend his title, and search for a record 21st singles grand slam triumph, as he insisted there had been no preferential treatment.

Men's grand slam winners - Djokovic, Federer, Nadal
Men's grand slam winners - Djokovic, Federer, Nadal

Tiley said on Australia's The Today Show: "There's been no special favour. There's been no special opportunity granted to Novak.

"As an organisation and as a sport, we've done what everyone else does and would do if they wanted to come to Australia and under certain conditions.

"And we have abided by those conditions and I know Australia's had the most comprehensive response to COVID of any nation in the world. And our governments have done everything they humanly possibly can to keep us safe.

"It's ultimately the decision of the medical experts and we follow that accordingly. In this case, Novak made that application.

"And like others, there's been 26 athletes and their primary support staff that have made applications and a handful of those have been granted by the panel.

"The conditions in which any tennis player comes in, no matter who they are, are conditions that have been put on tennis and put on anyone coming into Australia by the Australian government."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also sit with Djokovic on 20 major crowns, but the Swiss star is already ruled out of the tournament, which starts on January 17, through injury.

Nadal could yet compete after posting pictures showing he was in Melbourne as he continues to recover from a positive COVID-19 test in recent weeks.

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