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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – A tennis fan holds a sign outside the Park Hotel in Carlton on January 06, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. It is believed the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic was asked to quarantine in the Hotel over night. Djokovic arrived in Melbourne to play in the upcoming Australian Open and was denied entry to Australia due to his inability to meet Australian entry requirements. (Photo : Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Controversy engulfed the Australian Open just a week before its start after nine-time champion Novak Djokovic was sensationally barred from entering the country. The world no. 1 had his visa to enter Australia revoked upon his arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday, January 5, after he failed to provide standards of proof for his vaccine exemption to border officials.
Djokovic’s participation in the year’s first Grand Slam tournament was uncertain for months, given the Serbian’s presumed reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Djokovic has never divulged his vaccination status to the public, but he did say back in April 2020 that he was “opposed to vaccination.”
Djokovic granted vaccine exemption by two medical panels
All players and staff competing in the Australian Open must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an exemption given by an independent expert panel to join the tournament. Djokovic surprised tennis fans earlier this week when he announced that he was going to Australia to defend his crown.
He had been granted a vaccine exemption by a couple of independent medical panels organized by Victoria state and Tennis Australia, the body that runs the tournament. This sparked outrage in Australia, a country that has enforced some of the world’s strictest restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid a huge backlash, Djokovic was denied entry into Australia by the country’s border officials. The Australian Border Force (ABF) released a statement that Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence for entrance into the country after arriving from Dubai. The ABF added that “non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.”
Djokovic is not throwing the white flag yet as he is challenging the ABF’s decision. A hearing was scheduled for Monday, January 10, at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia regarding Djokovic’s stay in the country. Djokovic is currently confined in an immigration detention hotel as he waits for the court’s ruling about his deportation case.
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Nadal offers little sympathy to Djokovic amidst visa row
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a message on Twitter regarding the tennis star’s plight, saying, “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.”
Serbian President Aleksander Vucic lent support to his countryman, saying that Djokovic was a victim of harassment in Australia and that the entire nation of Serbia supported his fight.
Srdjan Djokovic also came to his son’s defense, saying that “This is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world.” Dijana Djokovic also issued a statement regarding her son’s predicament, saying that Novak is being “treated like a prisoner” by authorities in Australia.
However, one guy who offered little sympathy to Djokovic was his fellow 20-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard said that Djokovic’s decision not to get vaccinated comes with consequences. Nadal said that Djokovic would be playing in the Australian Open without a problem if he only followed the rules and got himself the COVID-19 jab.
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