Tennis fans and pundits have reacted to the news that Novak Djokovic has been granted permission to compete at the Grand Slam in Melbourne

The confirmation that Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption has met with a mixed response, with some claiming it is a damning insult to locals.

Djokovic revealed on Tuesday that he will be appearing at the season-opening Grand Slam in Melbourne later in January, saying he had been granted “exemption permission” for the tournament.

Organizers also confirmed the news in a statement which said that the nine-time champion had been given a medical exemption following “a rigorous review process involving two separate panels of medical experts.”

Djokovic has not revealed his Covid vaccine status publicly, but all players must be fully vaccinated to appear in the Melbourne showpiece unless given special medical permission. 

The news of Djokovic’s impending arrival Down Under – where he will be bidding to win a record 21st Grand Slam – met with a mixed response among fans and pundits.

Some pointed to the fact that Melbourne has endured some of the lengthiest and most stringent lockdown measures anywhere in the world during the pandemic. They claimed that Djokovic being allowed to compete with a medical exemption would not go down well.

“Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke – who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of the coronavirus – gets his exemption. Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential,” tweeted Australian sports journalist Andrew Maher.

Fellow sports writer Samantha Lewis claimed Australians had “a patriotic duty” to boo Djokovic at the tournament.

“This is an obscene decision and organizers should be f**king ashamed of themselves,” she raged.

“After everything we (and Victorians especially) have sacrificed and suffered over the past two years, it’s suddenly fine for some rich white unvaccinated tennis man to waltz in and undermine our social contract and totally dismiss the point of it all? Get completely f**ked.”

“It will be *VERY* interesting to see how people in Melbourne, the city with the world’s longest Covid-19 lockdown, will react to Novak Djokovic playing at the Australian Open,” pondered tennis writer Nikolaus Fink.

“Great to see Novak Djokovic will play in the Australian Open following an exemption permission. It’s tennis players who will get us through this pandemic,” scoffed Melbourne author Titus O’Reily sarcastically.

Broadcaster Quentin Hull claimed that the decision would be seen as: “Rules don’t apply for privileged superstar to enter world’s most locked down city.”

Others claimed Djokovic was about to find out what it will be like “to be despised by all Australians.”

“Novak, you’ve been a relatively popular player with Australian crowds. Until now, that is. You might wish to lower any expectations of a positive reception when you arrive,” warned one Australian tennis fan.

“The Australian people won’t take kindly to this. And quite rightly,” added a fan from the UK.

Others claimed fans would now be siding with whoever was facing Djokovic at the tournament.

However, UK sports journalist Oliver Brown of the Telegraph said it was “the right decision” to let the Serbian star play at the tournament he has dominated for so many years.

“Doubt news will be greeted too enthusiastically by Melburnians for whom proof of vaccination is an article of faith. But think, on balance, the right decision has been reached,” tweeted Brown.

“I hate to break it to you angry Australians, but Novak Djokovic wasn’t the one who made you spend almost two years in lockdown,” added sports reporter Sam Street. 

Others noted that Djokovic won’t be the only star appearing in Melbourne with a medical exemption. 

The news has at least ended weeks of speculation over Djokovic’s participation Down Under.

The world number one had pulled out of the ATP Cup in Sydney this month, where he had been due to play with the Serbian team.

Back in November, there were assertions from Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, that he would not give in to ‘blackmail’ over vaccine mandates, adding to fears that the star would not be there to defend his title in Melbourne.

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Djokovic has consistently declined to reveal his vaccine status but has advocated freedom of choice over getting jabbed against Covid.

Now set to line up for Melbourne, Djokovic will be aiming to defend the title he won last season by beating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the final.  

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