Former tennis player Jo Durie has reprimanded Novak Djokovic for failing to clarify his vaccination status up until now and making the “situation worse than it needs to be.” Djokovic has found himself at the centre of controversy after claiming to have a medical exemption allowing him to compete in this year’s Australian Open tournament, giving him the platform to defend last year’s title. News of the potential loophole was met with widespread criticism around the world, as rules indicate that players must either be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption by an independent panel of experts.
The decision to hand the 20-time Grand Slam winner an exemption went down to wire but in the end his wish to compete at one of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments has materialised “following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medicals experts”.
The serial winner now has a golden opportunity of surpassing fierce rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are both level on 20 Grand Slam victories, should he go all the way and win a world-record tenth Australian Open in Melbourne this month.
Speaking to Rachel Burden on BBC Radio 5, Ms Durie gave the iconic tennis star a dressing down, saying that, had he handled the situation better, he would not have found himself in such a precarious decision.
She said: “From my point of view, he’s been sort of avoiding the issue for so long and now it’s come to this.
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“I think he’ll find it quite hard actually, he might not understand the attitude because it doesn’t seem as though he has weighed this up properly and everyone’s pretty angry in Melbourne at the moment.”
This year’s tournament will start on Monday, January 17th with the final scheduled for January 30th but there could plenty of empty seats at the Rod Laver Arena as furious fans contemplate the idea of boycotting the tournament.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison threatened to derail Djokovic’s ambitions to take part in the tournament if he can’t provide “acceptable proof” upon his arrival.
He warned: “Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements.
“He has to because if he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers.
“So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides to support that.
“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.”