If local media in Serbia is to be believed, Novak Djokovic won't be able to defend his title at the Australian Open in January. According to the latest buzz, the world number 1 has been denied a special medical exemption to enter the country.

Djokovic had already pulled out of the ATP Cup, which is currently ongoing in Australia. It was reported that the Serb was still trying to make it to the first Grand Slam of the year by trying to secure an exemption. The defending Australian Open champion had been refusing to disclose his Covid-19 vaccination status, insisting that it is a personal and private matter. However, with all players required to take the jab before participating in the tournament, it seems clear that the 20-time Grand Slam champion has skipped the jab. Otherwise, there would be no reason to even speak about any difficulties in entering the country.

Djokovic also figured in another coronavirus related controversy last year, after he went ahead to organise a series of tennis events with very little regard for health protocols at the height of the initial wave of the pandemic. He and his wife Jelena, along with a handful of players tested positive midway through the series of events played in Serbia and Croatia.

Things were better for him in 2021, where he won the Australian Open followed by the French Open and Wimbledon. He found himself level on 20 Grand slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and was expected to surpass the two before unexpectedly losing the US Open final to Daniil Medvedev.

With Nadal nursing a foot injury and Federer also sidelined, Djokovic was expected to be the big attraction at the 2022 Australian Open. Unfortunately for him, the government of the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, has had a very firm stance on vaccination.

After strict rules implemented on its citizens, it seems unlikely that the state government will allow and exemption. There will surely be massive backlash should a presumably unvaccinated player be allowed to enter the country and play in the tournament, regardless if he is the defending champion.

Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev
Respect: Russia's Daniil Medvedev and Serb Novak Djokovic embrace at the net after Medvedev's victory in the 2021 US Open final Photo: AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY