Novak Djokovic Australian Open: Vaccinated Russian tennis star calls for same exemption

Natalia Vikhlyantseva Novak Djokovic

Natalia Vikhlyantseva has urged organisers to grant her permission to compete at the Australian Open following Novak Djokovic’s recent medical exemption.

The men’s world number one was recently excused from the country’s travel restrictions despite refusing to disclose his vaccination status.

He has also previously admitted he is “opposed” to being jabbed against Covid-19.

Vikhlyantseva, a Russian tennis star, received the Sputnik vaccine back in October, but the Russian jab is not recognised in a number of western countries.

The 24-year-old was offered approved alternatives by the WTA while on tour in 2021 but she declined due to uncertainty over whether it would affect her body during a performance.

As a result, Vikhlyantseva is prohibited from playing at the Australian Open this month as she doesn’t reach the country’s formal vaccination guidelines.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva

After it was announced Djokovic was given a medical exemption, allowing him to compete at the Grand Slam, Vikhlyantseva has asked organisers to give her similar treatment.

“For sure I was really upset that I can’t be in Australia with the whole tennis world,” she told ITV News. “I know it was anonymous how they did the exemptions… so I can’t say that something’s not right but I just feel that I can also play and I’m ready for all the tests — just give me a chance to play.”

Vikhlyantseva also expressed her frustration over the dismissal of Sputnik as a recognised vaccine. 

“I think now in this new reality that we live, the most important thing is to not forget that we are players and we are players who live in our own countries.

“It’s not fair I think, because we are not ‘non-vaccinated’, we are vaccinated. Just we decided that Sputnik is also a good vaccine.”

Vikhlyantseva was last in action in December at the Open BLS de Limoges, an indoor hard court tournament in France.

Natalia Vikhlyantseva

Australia’s travel restrictions previously prohibited anyone to travel in and out of Australia who weren’t citizens, permanent residents, or family members of either. It was only in December 2021 that the rules were broadened to allow fully vaccinated foreigners into the country.

Despite his medical exemption, Djokovic will now not be competing at the Australian Open.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner is currently being held at a government detention hotel at the country’s border after being denied entrance due to an issue with his visa. 

The Serbian is awaiting a decision on his deportation and could also be facing a three-year ban from Australia.

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