Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 tennis player in the world, is in danger of missing the Australian Open, which is his favorite major. There are four major tournaments in tennis every year, and this one in Melbourne is the first one. Novak sits in a tie with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most ever Grand Slam majors won by one man. They all have 20, and Djokovic is obsessed with becoming the first to win 21.
He’s won a record nine Australian Opens already but is in danger of being deported from Australia with his chance at making history within his grasp. Australia has a nationwide policy that if you aren’t vaccinated, you can’t come into the country unless you have a valid reason for an exemption. Djokovic is unvaccinated but was supposedly given an exemption. Upon arriving in Melbourne last week, the “Djokovic Visa Saga” began.
His vaccination exemption was questioned, his visa got canceled, and he had an immediate legal battle on his hands. To better explain how we got to this point, we have to go back to April 2020. This is when Djokovic first expressed on Facebook that he was opposed to the vaccine, saying he wouldn’t want to be forced to take the vaccine in order to travel.
He then tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020 after he played in a series of exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia. There wasn’t any social distancing or masking required amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Right on schedule, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tilley announced on November 19, 2021, that everyone at the 2022 Australian Open must be vaccinated. This mandate was made by the Victorian state government while Novak’s vaccination status was still unknown.
On December 8, 2021, Deputy Premier James Merlino says medical exemptions for the vaccine policy would not be a “loophole for privileged tennis players.” Also, exemptions would only be possible in “exceptional circumstances, if you have an acute medical condition.”
Djokovic then tests positive for COVID-19 on December 16, 2021, in Serbia, although this is not public knowledge until it is revealed by court documents in January.
On December 18, 2021, Djokovic participated in an interview and photoshoot with the French newspaper L’Equipe, even though he knew he tested positive. “On reflection, this was an error in judgment,” he said.
After Djokovic tested negative for COVID-19 on December 22, he withdrew from Serbia’s team for the ATP Cup with no reason given.
After much speculation, The Djoker reveals on January 4 that he will compete at the opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption. Tennis Australia then confirmed this by giving a statement confirming Djokovic is on his way to the country with a medical exemption that has been “granted following a rigorous review involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.” Neither Djokovic nor Tennis Australia reveals the reason for his exemption, even though a few other players had also been given exemptions.
As he is flying to Melbourne on January 5, many Australians express their disdain on social media for Novak’s entry into the county. After his plane lands before midnight at Tullamarine Airport, The Age newspaper in Melbourne reports that his entry is delayed due to a mistake with his visa application.
The shock factor continued on January 6 as Djokovic was detained for eight hours at the airport, denied entry to the country, and had his visa canceled. The Australian Border Force says Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. Health Minister Greg Hunt says the visa cancellation followed a review of Djokovic’s medical exemption by border officials who looked “at the integrity and evidence behind it.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweets: “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders.”
The tennis star is then brought to a hotel used to house immigration detainees, where he remains for four days. Fans gather in protest outside the hotel. On January 10, Djokovic pleads his case in virtual court with an affidavit saying he is not vaccinated for COVID-19 and argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the virus last month. Australian medical circles ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstates Djokovic’s visa, ruling the player was not given enough time to speak to his lawyers before the decision to deny him entry was made. He also noted Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels. The government was also ordered to release him from detention.
Then Australian lawyer Christopher Tran tells the judge that the minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation.”
Finally, on January 12 Djokovic speaks publicly in a post posted by someone else. During his third practice session on Rod Laver Arena, the post was shared, with the defending Australian Open champ confessing to a mistake made on his travel declaration for Australia. Djokovic blames his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error and certainly not deliberate.”
But none of these efforts mattered as Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa for a second time on January 14. As the first round of play starts this Monday, Djokovic and his lawyers will have a meeting with immigration officials Sunday in Melbourne at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
No matter what happens with the No. 1 player in the world, the Australian Open will still be played. It’s a shame that his visa issues have been the overwhelming pre-tournament focus because this tournament is one of the most exciting of the year. All players have worked equally hard to make it into this tournament, and the action on the court will be the only focus in the end.
Article by: Chris Steele, iHearts143Quotes Team member