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Djokovic's Australian Open Vaccine Exemption Triggers Outcry

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is seeking a record-breaking 21st grand slam title in Australia. (file photo)

Many Australians have reacted angrily to news that Serbia's Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked men's tennis player, will play in the upcoming Australian Open after receiving a medical exemption over his coronavirus vaccination status.

Amid the controversy, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on January 5 that Djokovic will be on the “next plane home” if his evidence for being exempted from Covid-19 vaccination rules is deemed insufficient.

The 34-year-old Serb, who is looking for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open beginning in Melbourne on January 17, has previously signaled his opposition to the vaccine and has never revealed his inoculation status.

He applied to an independent panel of experts for a medical exemption, but has never said what his medical issues are.

Australia is seeing tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world's strictest restrictions.

More than 90 percent of Australia's over-16 population is fully vaccinated, but some people still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current measures.

Djokovic, Spain's Rafael Nadal, and Switzerland's Roger Federer are all tied with 20 Grand Slam titles each. Nadal will compete in Melbourne after recovering from COVID-19. Federer will not be at the tournament as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

Based on reporting by the BBC and dpa