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Novak Djokovic has been met with widespread criticism by Australians after he shared news of his exemption allowing him to play in the Australian Open this month.

Despite public claims from Victorian government officials that the tennis champion would not be allowed to compete if he wasn’t fully vaccinated, Djokovic is now able to enter the country without confirming his vaccination status.

Though he has refused to share his status publicly, the 34-year-old said he was opposed to mandatory vaccination in April 2020.

“Personally I am not pro-vaccines,” he said at the time. “I would not like it for someone to compel me to be vaccinated so I can travel.”

The world No. 1 took to social media to announce his exemption on Tuesday night, sparking furious reactions from Australians – particularly in Melbourne and Sydney – whose movements have been restricted over the past two years due to the pandemic.

“Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke – who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of the coronavirus – gets his exemption,” Melbourne-based radio host and sports broadcaster Andy Maher wrote on social media.

“Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential.”

Sports writer Daniel Cherny said the move was “weak as p**s”, while football journalist Jon Ralph labelled it as “farcical” and a “rort”.

“Watch everyone dodge the responsibility for him somehow getting him an exemption,” he said.

“People will be going to bed right now to get up at 5am to do the right thing to get into testing queues for PCR results they won’t get for six days and will quarantine anyway. How bloody galling to see Novak getting an exemption. Farcical.”

Ex-AFL star Corey McKernan also weighed in, dubbing it a “f***ing disgrace”.

“People with loved ones who are dying / some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states. You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re world number 1, you get a pass? F***ing disgrace,” he tweeted.

Australians weren’t the only ones slamming the decision. Double world No. 19 Jamie Murray – two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray’s brother – said the decision was made under different standards.

“I think if I had been there instead of him, I would not have obtained any exemption,” he said.

In a statement in response to the decision, Tennis Australia clarified that Djokovic wasn’t given an exemption to play while unvaccinated.

Instead, his exemption came as the result of a review process involving the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Independent Medical Examination Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the association said.

“Under an independent process, applications for medical exemption were first reviewed by an expert panel made up of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice.

“Applications that met the national guidelines set by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) were then subjected to a second review conducted by a Government-appointed panel of medical experts, the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel.

“The applications were reviewed and approved only in line with ATAGI guidelines.”

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said players, fans and staff attending the Australian Open would need to be fully vaccinated unless they had a legitimate reason to receive a medical exemption.

“Fair and independent protocols were established for assessing medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure Australian Open 2022 is safe and enjoyable for everyone,” Tiley said.

“Central to this process was that the decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration.”

Appearing on breakfast TV on Wednesday morning, Tiley noted that one reason medical exemptions could be granted was if someone had contracted COVID-19 within the past six months.

Djokovic had the virus in mid-2020 following his Adria Tour, but he has not said whether he has tested positive again within the past six months.

“ATAGI’s laid out very clear guidelines for all of us coming into Australia that we have to abide by. That’s why we’ve been saying to the players from the beginning if you want to be assured to come to Australia, you get vaccinated and you be fully vaccinated,” Tiley told Today.

“And if you have a medical reason, a medical condition, there is a process if you can go through.

“There’s been no special opportunity granted to Novak, nor would there be to any tennis player. In fact, there’s been a process that goes above and beyond the normal process for everyone.”

Image: @djokernole (Instagram)

This article first appeared on OverSixty.