Sports Column: Djokovic whiffed on 2 shots, 3 if you count booster
TIMELINE: Djokovic's failed bid to play in Australian Open
Novak Djokovic’s attempt to play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19 came to an end when a court upheld a government minister's rejection of his visa. The unanimous ruling from three Federal Court judges in Melbourne on Sunday came the day before Djokovic was scheduled to begin his title defense at a Grand Slam tournament he’s won a record nine times. The Australian government twice canceled a visa held by the 34-year-old from Serbia and Djokovic’s lawyers appealed twice.
After more than a week of lies, hypocrisy, partisan bickering, bureaucratic bumbling and the inevitably idiotic comparison to the crucifixion of Jesus — by his own father, no less — the Novak Djokovic story still boils down to this:
He threw away a chance to make history at the Australian Open by whiffing on two shots. OK, three, if you count the booster.
If the punishment seems harsh, just wait.Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds, but . A final ruling is expected Sunday, less than 24 hours before .
EXPLAINER: How will Australian visa ruling impact Djokovic?
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — As Novak Djokovic awaits a final decision on whether his visa will be revoked, all eyes have turned to Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. He has to decide whether he will overturn the decision of a federal judge, who ruled Djokovic’s visa should be reinstated because he was unfairly treated by officials at the border. Hawke has discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa but has taken longer than expected to reach a decision which has legal, political, sporting and diplomatic consequences. © Provided by The Canadian Press ____ WHAT HAPPENS NOW? Whatever Hawke decides, it’s unlikely to be the last word.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. ... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday in a statement. “This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”
The pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. There are still three more Grand Slam events in three countries with different vaccination rules to navigate this season and who-knows-how many-more tournaments Djokovic will want to play in between. Precious few of his fellow players expressed support for his no-vax stance. A recent poll found four out of five Aussies wanted him deported. If this is how his year begins, the odds the rest of it goes smoothly are slimmer still.
Djokovic out, but vaccine debate stays in Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — To some, it seemed a cloud had been lifted from the Australian Open. To others, Novak Djokovic still was almost palpably present, the name on everyone's lips on the opening day of the first major tennis tournament of the year. Djokovic left Australia late Sunday when he failed in his legal challenge to overturn the cancellation of his visa due to his lack of a COVID-19 vaccination. His flight from Melbourne was touching down in Dubai early Monday just as the first matches of the tournament began. As the No. 1-ranked male player and the three-time defending champion, Djokovic would have been the marquee attraction of the tournament.
Hawke’s decision came down, conveniently perhaps, after a string of embarrassing revelations about how Djokovic behaved after the Dec. 16 positive COVID-19 test that was the basis for his request for a medical exemption. The next day, he attended an event in Belgrade honoring youth tennis players; photos turned up on social media showing none of them wearing masks.
Djokovic subsequentlybefore the event and didn’t get the results of a more reliable PCR test until afterward. But a copy of his medical certificate showed that test was returned on Dec. 16, just seven hours after it was administered. On top of that, Djokovic conducted an interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe on Dec. 18, after knowing he’d tested positive. He conceded, after being called out, “On reflection, this was an error in judgment.”
It wasn’t the only one. Djokovic flaunted his “exemption” in an Instagram post on Jan. 4, just before boarding a flight to Melbourne. By the time he landed, the public Down Under was hopping mad, weary after months of strict lockdowns and facing another severe surge in coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant. If his timing seemed bad, it was about to get worse.
Will Novak Djokovic play in Australian Open? Latest news on tennis star's visa decision
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic's name is on the Australian Open draw right now, but will he be able to stay? MORE: Australian Open draws 2022 Is Novak Djokovic playing in the Australian Open 2022? Djokovic's playing status is still undetermined as his visa acceptance is being reviewed at this time. However, in the meantime, he is the No. 1 seed for the 2022 Australian Open. He faces a fellow Serbian, Miomir Kecmanovic, in the first round of the tournament, beginning on Monday. It's unclear when Immigration Minister Hawke will have a decision about Djokovic's visa status.
Djokovic was detained several hours for questioning at the airport, then transferred to a $109-a-night hotel with — how to put this? — a number of less-well-heeled immigration seekers. He reportedly requested his personal chef be allowed to prepare his meals. Right around then, family members and a host of cynical politicians tried their level best to make Djokovic a cause celebre, appealing to nationalist fervor and a small but vocal anti-vax minority around the globe.
“Shame on them, the entire freedom-loving world should rise together with Serbia,” Srdjan Djokovic, his sometimes-belligerent father, said from Belgrade. “They crucified Jesus, and now they are trying to crucify Novak the same way and force him on his knees.”
The ensuing debate played out on social media around the globe, largely along well-entrenched political fault lines. Predictably, all that heat shed very little light on the topics — medicine, alternative medicine, science, immigration, justice and egalitarianism — that have been flashpoints since the start of the pandemic.
EXPLAINER: Why Australia faces a tough call on Djokovic
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — When Australian immigration officials rejected tennis star Novak Djokovic’s medical exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement and canceled his Australian visa, they set off a storm of ramifications — bureaucratic, political and legal. The world’s top male tennis player spent four days in a dowdy Melbourne immigration detention hotel among asylum seekers and undocumented migrants before Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly upheld his appeal and ordered him released and his visa reinstated.
For those who didn’t weigh in or follow along, rest assured you didn’t miss much. The number of people actually qualified to make pronouncements on those topics wouldn’t fill half of the 10,000 or so seats at Melbourne Park, which, coincidentally, is the number of vaccinated fans that will be allowed to watch the matches each day.
Had he been vaccinated, Djokovic would have been the heavy favorite to win a fourth straight Open, 10th overall and his 21st Grand Slam title, which would have vaulted him past both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in their decade-long race for pride of place in the men’s game.
Instead, he'll likely be tossed out of the country empty-handed before the first ball is hit, still a hero to some but a selfish, short-sighted embodiment of privilege to many. The long-term damage to his reputation remains to be seen, but he'll have a hard time shedding the assessment shared by two TV news anchors on Seven Network in Australia, apparently unaware they were on a hot mic.
“He fell,” said one, “over his own (expletive) lies.”
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Jim Litke, The Associated Press
Djokovic back into swing in Australia, visa questions linger .
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic held a practice session on Tuesday, a day after he left immigration detention, focusing on defending his Australian Open title even while he still faces the prospect of deportation because he’s not vaccinated against COVID-19. The top-ranked tennis star hit the show courts of Melbourne Park, where the tournament is held, within hours of winning a legal battle that allowed him to stay in the country. AtThe top-ranked tennis star hit the show courts of Melbourne Park, where the tournament is held, within hours of winning a legal battle that allowed him to stay in the country.