Tennis-Reaction to Djokovic medical exemption to play in Australian Open

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Jan 5 (Reuters) - Here are reactions to Novak Djokovic's announcement that he will defend his Australian Open title this month after receiving a medical exemption from the requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19. read more

TENNIS COACH TONI NADAL

"I think it would be good for the player himself to give some explanation.

"He has no obligation to disclose data that belong to his privacy, but he should be aware that he is an international reference at a time of very serious world health crisis and of great sensitivity due to the enormous pain that COVID-19 is causing.

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"I would like to think that Novak is not oblivious to all this and that he will clear up any doubts as a sign of human sensitivity and understanding."

AUSTRALIAN TENNIS GREAT ROD LAVER

"I think it might get ugly. I'd think the Victorian people would be thinking 'Yes I'd love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there's a right way and a wrong way.'

"If he's got a reason for (the exemption) then ... we should know it. Yes, you're a great player and you've performed and won so many tournaments, so it can't be physical. So what is the problem?"

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON

"We await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that (exemption). If that evidence is insufficient, then he won't be treated any different to anyone else and he'll be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever."

AUSTRALIA WOMEN'S WORLD NUMBER ONE ASH BARTY

"I think it's a tough one. As we've seen a little bit in the last day or so, from the Australian public, I know how hard it has been for Australians... but in particular Victorians have had a real rough trot over the last 18 months and two years.

"I understand why they may be frustrated with the decision. Ultimately I have no interest in speaking about Novak's medical history. It's not my decision. Those decisions are made. They're completely out of my control."

RETIRED AUSTRALIAN PLAYER-TURNED-MEDIA PUNDIT SAM GROTH

"Novak Djokovic being granted a medical exemption to play the Australian Open is a decision that spits in the face of every Victorian and Australian.

"When I first saw it, I can't say I was surprised but for a guy that has said he will never disclose anything about his medical status, to come out and say he has the exemption was a brazen move.

Tennis - Australian Open - Men's Singles Photo Shoot - Brighton Beach, Melbourne, Australia, February 22, 2021 Australian Open champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy during a photo shoot at Brighton Beach REUTERS/Loren Elliott

"Why not just say you're coming to Australia and maintain the code of silence? You're willing to say you have an exemption but not willing to say why? It's sick hypocrisy."

ACTING VICTORIAN SPORTS MINISTER JAALA PULFORD

"I think lots of people in the Victorian community will find this to be a disappointing outcome. But the process is the process; nobody has had special treatment."

AUSTRALIAN OPEN BOSS CRAIG TILEY

"We completely understand and empathise with ... people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in, because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination.

"However, it's ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition, if he chooses to do that, and the reasons why he received an exemption."

2011 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION SAMANTHA STOSUR

"Yeah, I think as far as the exemption goes, I don't obviously have any idea what the exemption is for, what it was. I know I don't think it comes down to the tennis circles and the Australian Open deciding those, it's the government.

"So whatever application has been sent in, they've obviously given it the okay. But yeah, it's obviously a pretty heated topic at the moment, and hopefully it's all fine in the long run."

AUSTRALIA'S MEN'S WORLD NUMBER 34 ALEX DE MINAUR

"I just think it's just very interesting, that's all I'm going to say. But, hey, it is what it is, I just hope that the other players ... I heard there were other cases as well ... they got exemptions, so I hope they will all fit the criteria."

AUSTRALIAN PLAYER JORDAN THOMPSON

"I can see why they (people) are upset ... I know they felt you had to be vaccinated to play ...

"I think people should have their say if they want to get vaccinated or not, and I don't - I just worry about myself. Yeah, honestly I'm glad that he's playing."

AMERICAN PLAYER NICOLE MELICHAR-MARTINEZ

"I don't understand why @DjokerNole is getting so much hate for his vaccine exemption. He's within the rules, and the government could have said 'no' but they didn't."

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Compiled by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alison Williams

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