Novak Djokovic, the world number one in men’s tennis, traveled all day Wednesday from Dubai to Australia, on a trip that was supposed to start his defense of the Australian Open singles tennis.
On Thursday, he was told he would need to leave the country, after a 10-hour standoff with government officials at Melbourne airport, where he was kept in a room overnight due to the validity of his visa and questions about evidence supporting a medical examination. Exemption from the Corona Virus Vaccine. The exemption was supposed to allow Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam champion and one of the sport’s biggest stars, to compete in the Australian Open even though he was not vaccinated.
Djokovic did not leave the country immediately and his team filed a legal appeal against the ruling on Thursday. A judge said Djokovic would allow him to remain in Australia until at least Monday while his lawyers await a hearing. A spokesperson for the tennis star did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The chain of events represented a dizzying turn for Djokovic, who had gone in just over 24 hours from receiving special permission at the last minute to play at the World Open, to riding a transcontinental flight, until essentially being told by the Prime Minister of Australia. It is not welcome in the country.
Once upon a time the chief Aleksandar Vucic Serbia even stepped in and spoke with Djokovic and criticized the Australian government for its treatment of the country’s biggest sports star.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on sport over the past two years. The Summer Olympics in Tokyo has been postponed for a year. The major events took place in empty stadiums. Star players were sent into isolation ahead of their competitions after testing positive for the virus.
Djokovic’s attitude, one of the most polarizing figures in tennis, was a match for any of them. It has turned into a showdown between a star athlete and the most powerful leader in one of the world’s most prosperous countries, with government officials, citizens, the media and even some fellow players slamming the exemption, seemingly leading to the abrupt turnaround.
The decision promises to become another hot spot in the debate over vaccines and how the pandemic should be managed now, especially in Australia, where equality is a sacred principle – and where “tennis,” as the Open Championship is called, is also loved by what often appears to be an entire nation of fanatics. for sports.
in a statment Thursday, the Australian Border Force pledged to “continue to ensure that those arriving at our borders comply with our laws and entry requirements. The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide adequate evidence to meet entry requirements to Australia, and his visa was subsequently revoked.”
For Djokovic, this has been the latest and most contentious of his career that has been filled with them, almost all caused by the behavior of a champion who can be stubborn and not as disconnected from the court as he is.
Djokovic has never been shy about expressing it unconventional opinions In Science and Medicine (he once expressed support for the idea that prayer and faith can purify poisonous water), and has on numerous occasions stated his opposition to vaccination decisions, saying that vaccination is a private and personal decision that should not be obligated. However, it was not until this week that he revealed whether he had been vaccinated.
On Tuesday, he announce On Twitter he had obtained a medical exemption from the requirement that all people entering Australia be vaccinated or quarantined for 14 days upon arrival. Then he boarded a flight to Australia from Dubai.
In a statement later that day, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tilly made it clear that players seeking exemption must pass two teams of medical experts. The process included reviewing personal information to ensure privacy.
“Fair and independent protocols have been put in place to evaluate medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure that the 2022 Australian Open is safe and enjoyable for all,” said Tilley. “Key to the process was that decisions were made by independent medical experts and that every applicant was given due consideration.”
On Wednesday, Tilley said in a TV interview that 26 players had applied for an exemption and a “handful” had been granted. According to Tilly, 99 percent of the more than 3,000 people who came to Australia for the tournament have been vaccinated. The few who were granted exemption either had a medical condition or had Covid-19 in the past six months, although Australian health officials said late last year that a recent infection would not necessarily be enough to enter.
Tennis Australia said Djokovic’s exemption was granted in part by an independent panel appointed by Victoria’s Department of Health.
Djokovic landed at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. By then, he had become the central figure in a firestorm of how he obtained permission to enter Australia, which is experiencing an astonishing rise in coronavirus cases.
The country has fought one of the most successful battles against Covid-19, but it has done so It comes at a great price. The strict lockdowns continued for months. International borders were largely closed until recently. Incoming travelers had to adhere to an expensive two-week quarantine upon arrival. For long periods, even domestic travel between countries was prohibited. The country has seen about 2,200 deaths, but since opening its borders late last year, it is now dealing with more than 30,000 cases per day.
When Djokovic flew to Melbourne, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison invoked the government’s authority to block Djokovic’s entry.
“Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,” Morrison said.
“We are waiting for his presentation and what evidence he gives us to support that,” Morrison added. “If this evidence is insufficient, he will not be treated differently than everyone else and will be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic whatsoever. Nothing at all.”
Also on Wednesday, Victoria’s acting sports minister, Gala Polford, which includes Melbourne, the site of the Open, said the state government would not support Djokovic’s visa application. “Visa approval is a matter for the federal government,” Polford wrote on Twitter.
Her statement followed comments from Australia’s Minister of Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, who issued a statement indicating that the government had the power to prevent Djokovic from entering the country. In a statement entitledAustralian border rules apply to everyone‘Andrews said that ‘while the Australian Government of Victoria and Tennis may allow an unvaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border. “
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“No one who competes in the Australian Open will get any special treatment,” Andrews said.
“I think if it were me who had not been vaccinated, I wouldn’t get an exemption,” Jamie Murray of Britain said on Tuesday.
Others criticized the Australian government for failing the process and mistreating the world’s best player.
Tennys Sandgren, the American professional player who also opposes the vaccination mandate, stated on Twitter that “Australia does not deserve to host a Grand Slam.”
Djokovic, tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most men’s singles titles with 20 titles, was the favorite to win his 21st place in Melbourne, winning nine times. Melbourne has a small but bustling community of Serbian expats, who attend all of Djokovic’s matches at Rod Laver Arena, the centerpiece of the World Open, and give him enthusiastic support rare far from home, despite his status as the greatest player ever.
While men’s and women’s professional tours do not require vaccination, tennis officials are at the mercy of local, state and national governments in the power where tournaments are held. It is possible that Djokovic will face these conditions in other competitions if countries require a vaccine to enter or the local government requires one to work.
The French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, which take place in late spring and summer, have not announced whether a vaccine is needed.
Andrew DassAnd Isabella KwaiAnd Livia Albeck Ripka And Damian’s Cave Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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