World Explainer: Why Novak Djokovic was not let into Australia
Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Held in Guarded Room in Australia After Reported Visa Mix-Up
Djokovic announced Tuesday that he had received a medical exemption to COVID vaccine requirements that would allow him to play in the upcoming Australian Open. © Juan Naharro/Getty Images for Lexus Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand against Marin Cilic of Croatia during the Davis Cup Semi Final match between Croatia and Serbia at Madrid Arena pavilion Monday in Madrid, Spain. Djokovic is reportedly being held in a room without being allowed to leave while an issue with his visa and a COVID vaccine medical exemption is figured out.
Novak Djokovic came within one victory of sweeping all four of last year’s Grand Slam tennis tournaments and entered 2022 needing one title to set the men’s record of 21 major championships.
He might not get the chance to pursue that mark at the Australian Open when play begins in Melbourne on January 17.
That’s because, even though Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia, was granted a medical exemption to get around a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all players and their support teams at the hard-court tournament, his visa for entry into Australia was revoked in the early hours of Thursday after he was detained at the airport for about eight hours.
Open from Australia: Novak Djokovic "knew the conditions" to enter Australia, reacts Rafael Nadal
after his return to the victorious competition in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal spoke on the misadventures of Novak Djokovic. © Supplied by FranceInfo Rafael Nadal, Trombur of the Lithuanian Berankis 6-2, 7-5 to the 2nd round of the Melbourne tournament, Thursday, January 6, showed few emotions with regard to the situation of Novak Djokovi , blocked by the Australian authorities for a visa problem.
Here’s a look at some of the issues surrounding Djokovic’s attempt to play in the Australian Open:
Why was Djokovic granted a medical exemption? Was anyone else given one?
The Victoria State Government, where Melbourne Park is located, mandated full vaccinations for all players, staff and fans at the Australian Open unless there is a genuine medical reason.
Victoria state Deputy Premier James Merlino said medical exemptions would not be “a loophole for privileged tennis players” and would only be possible in “exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition”.
Tennis Australia said Djokovic’s request for an exemption “was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts”.
Djokovic's detention becomes political issue in Australia
SYDNEY (AP) — On a tennis court, Novak Djokovic’s timing is perfect. But when he arrived in Australia to play the first Grand Slam of the year holding documents allowing him to enter the country without a COVID-19 vaccine, his timing hardly could have been worse. When Djokovic landed in Melbourne on Wednesday he found himself in a city beset by surging virus cases. Border officials rejected Djokovic’s documentation, cancelled his visa and ordered him out of the country in a move that many Australians cheered. The tennis star's outspoken opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine struck a wrong note in a city where 92% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Neither Tennis Australia nor Djokovic revealed the reason he sought an exemption.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said a total of 26 players or support staff applied for exemptions and a “handful” were granted.
I feel very uncomfortable with how Mr. Djokovic has been treated. No one deserves to be humiliated in this way. This could have been resolved before he travelled. Not a good image forto send to the world.
— Sophie McNeill (@Sophiemcneill)
Why was he prevented from entering Australia then?
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When he landed at the airport, the Australian Border Force cancelled Djokovic’s visa, saying he “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements”.
Australia PM Says 'No One is Above' Rules Amid Novak Djokovic's Detainment Over COVID Jab
The tennis star's detainment comes as Melbourne, where the Australian Open is held, is experiencing a massive surge in COVID cases.Djokovic, who has denied confirming whether or not he has received the COVID-19 vaccine, was detained by immigration authorities on Thursday. The Serbian tennis player was originally allowed to attend the Australian Open through an exemption given by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia. However, that exemption and his visa were canceled upon his arrival to the country on Wednesday.
“No one is above these rules,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted and later said at a news conference that Djokovic’s exemption was not valid but did not explain the details.
What has been the reaction in Serbia and Australia?
The news that Djokovic was on his way to Australia with an exemption was not exactly greeted warmly in Melbourne, where most people endured months of strict lockdowns and harsh travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.
Following the announcement, former Australian rules football player Kevin Bartlett tweeted that Australians “have been taken for fools”.
Another former player, Corey McKernan, tweeted: “People with loved ones who are dying/some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states. You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re world number one you get a pass?”
The about-face on Djokovic’s status upon his arrival was, not surprisingly, objected to by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who called it “harassment”.
“The whole of Serbia is with him and … our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world’s best tennis player ends as soon as possible,” President Vucic said after speaking with Djokovic over the phone. “In line with all standards of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, justice and truth.”
Djokovic lawyers say COVID infection gave him Australia exemption
In court filing, lawyers say tennis star contracted COVID-19 last month and was later granted a vaccine exemption.Djokovic was denied entry at the Melbourne airport after border officials cancelled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic’s father echoed that nationalistic tone, claiming his son had been “held captive for five hours” at Melbourne airport and should return home to a hero’s welcome.
“This is a fight for a libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world,” he told the Russian state-run Sputnik media outlet in Serbia.
Yesterday I tweeted this government takes credit for everything and responsibility for nothing. Since then the PM said the Djokovic visa issue was a matter for Victoria. Then he took credit when entry was denied. This is getting ridiculous.
— Barrie Cassidy (@barriecassidy)
Is Djokovic vaccinated? Has he had COVID-19?
While Djokovic has refused to explicitly say whether or not he received any shots to protect against the coronavirus, he would not have needed an exemption to enter Australia if he were fully vaccinated.
Previously, he issued a statement saying: “Personally I am opposed to the vaccination against COVID-19 in order to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, I will have to make a decision whether to do it, or not.”
Two months later, he and his wife tested positive for the illness caused by the coronavirus after a series of exhibition matches he organised with no social distancing or masking.
What happens next?
Djokovic fought against deportation from Australia and is currently being held at the Park Hotel, used as a quarantine and immigration detention facility in Melbourne.
Court officials said Judge Anthony Kelly would hear Djokovic’s appeal against imminent deportation which has been pushed back to 07:00 GMT.
2022 Australian Open betting preview: Is Novak Djokovic a fade? .
It’s already been an eventful affair with the drama surrounding world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, his vaccination status and whether he should play. Djokovic is still listed as the No. 1 seed of the ATP draw as of Thursday, but a lot can change from now until the start of the tournament. If Djokovic plays he has a solid chance at reaching another Australian Open final, which is his most successful Grand Slam event. Djokovic has won 20 Grand Slam titles and nine at the Australian. He enters as the reigning champ and is on his second three-year winning streak at the event. Djokovic has never won four straight Australian Opens.