Unvaxxed Tennys Sandgren makes Novak Djokovic claim after withdrawing from Australian Open

Djokovic speaks following his US Open defeat against Medvedev

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Tennys Sandgren made a dig at Novak Djokovic after failing to meet the criteria for a medical exemption into the Australian Open, despite being unvaccinated like the world No 1. Sandgren, a two-time quarter-finalist Down Under, pulled out of the Grand Slam over the vaccination requirement for players. The American did not apply for an exemption after failing to meet the requirements, while Djokovic was granted one following months of speculation over his participation.

Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he was flying to Melbourne to compete in the season-opening Grand Slam, having received “an exemption permission” to travel to Australia without being fully vaccinated.

The nine-time Australian Open champion shared a photo of himself in the airport on Instagram, writing: “Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you all health, love, and happiness in every present moment and may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022 !!”

His participation in the first Major of the year had been in doubt for months after it was confirmed that all players needed to be fully vaccinated in order to travel and compete.

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The world No 1 previously cast doubt over whether he’d travel to Australia, admitting he “didn’t know if [he] was going” and refusing to disclose his vaccination status.

He later signed up for the ATP Cup and Australian Open as rumours that Djokovic was looking to apply for a medical exemption emerged, but the 34-year-old later withdrew from the team event when he failed to gain entry to Australia.

But on Tuesday, Djokovic announced he had been granted an exemption and was flying in ahead of the Aussie Open, while Tennis Australia confirmed they had given the nine-time champion a medical exemption “following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”

However, the reason for the 20-time Major champion’s successful medical exemption application remains unknown.

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Following Djokovic’s announcement, two-time Aussie Open quarter-finalist Sandgren confirmed he had withdrawn from the upcoming Grand Slam tournament as he had chosen not to get vaccinated.

The current world No 96, who made the last-eight in 2018 and 2020, told reporter Ben Rothenberg that he did not try to apply for a medical exemption like the Serb “because he did not meet any of the criteria listed for one.”

The American later made a dig at Djokovic and Tennis Australia over the 34-year-old’s medical exemption, hinting that there may be underlying reasons behind his fellow player’s successful application.

When the ATP Tour’s official streaming service, Tennis TV, posted the news of Djokovic’s medical exemption to their Instagram account, fellow American tennis player Tommy Paul commented and tagged Sandgren, asking if he was also going to Australia.

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A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)

“Not quite the same pull,” the former world No 41 replied, referencing Djokovic’s world No 1 and 20-time Major champion status.

Brits Liam Broady and Jamie Murray have also come out to question the fairness of the granted medical exemption.


Broady, who is at the ATP Cup this week as Great Britain’s team captain, shared Djokovic’s announcement post to his own Instagram story and wrote: “The second AO announced there would be exemptions 8 weeks ago we all knew,” adding eye-roll and laughing emojis.

Meanwhile, the older Murray brother admitted he thought a player like himself – a former doubles world No 1 and multiple Major champion in doubles – would not have been given the exemption if he was in Djokovic’s position.

“I don’t know what to say about that really. I think if it was me that wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t be getting an exemption,” the Scot said, following his doubles loss alongside compatriot Joe Salisbury to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. “But well done to him for getting clear to come to Australia and compete.”

When asked if he thought the decision was unfair, he added: “Well, it’s whatever you want to say. That’s the situation.”

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