Novak Djokovic will defend his Australian Open title after being granted medical exemption from vaccine mandate

Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will defend his 2021 title this year after being granted “medical exemption” from the vaccine mandate.

There had been uncertainty over Djokovic’s participation after players were told they would have to be fully vaccinated in order to participate or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts. Djokovic, who is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 grand slam singles titles, has not publicly revealed his vaccination status.

However, Australian Open organizers confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Djokovic will compete after he applied for a medical exemption “which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.” Earlier on Tuesday, the Serb posted a picture of himself at an airport with a caption stating he was “heading Down Under.”

“Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” he wrote on Instagram. “I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022.” Tournament director Craig Tiley has previously said players at this year’s event must be fully vaccinated, unless there’s a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.