WATCH: Novak Djokovic, ATP Player of the Year

Novak Djokovic announced he has received an exemption to play the Australian Open, and will travel to Melbourne despite remaining unvaccinated against COVID-19.

“Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” the world No. 1 and nine-time Australian Open champion wrote on Instagram.

The Australian Open later confirmed in a statement that Djokovic had received a medical exemption, "which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts."

Subsequent to the tournament's statement, the Victoria government stated the following: "Any player who is granted a medical exemption will have gone through a two-stage, independent process to verify they have a genuine medical condition that meets the criteria for an exemption."


Publicly skeptical of vaccines, Djokovic had previously refused to state whether he was vaccinated against COVID-19, and withdrew from his scheduled ATP Cup appearance last week. He and wife Jelena both contracted COVID-19 in the summer of 2020 after attempting to organize the Adria Tour during the initial ATP and WTA lockdown.

Australian Open organizers confirmed in December that certain players and tournament staff would be rewarded medical exemptions to appear at the tournament without a COVID-19 vaccine should they meet a strict set of criteria—the likes of which prevented players like Natalia Vikhlyantseva, who was vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V, from traveling to the country—or carry a medical condition that prevented them from receiving it.

Djokovic is currently aiming to surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by winning a 21st major title, coming within one match of doing so at the US Open—where he was also looking to secure a Calendar Year Grand Slam.

Australia, which has been subject to some of the most stringent pandemic protocols in the world, has reported over 30,000 new cases of COVID-19 to start the year, in part due to the new and highly contagious omicron variant.