Vaccine exemption, visa error, threat of deportation: Novak Djokovic’s crazy week in Australia

The adventures continue for Novak Djokovic. Arrived in Melbourne a few days before the Australian Open tournament (January 17 to 30), the Serbian tennis player, who had obtained a vaccination exemption, had his visa canceled. This Thursday, January 6, he obtained a stay until a hearing on Monday, which will have to rule on his expulsion or not from the country. Return in action on a case which agitates the world of tennis.

  • Act I. Djokovic announces his departure for Australia

For months, the tennis player has left in doubt, because of the obligation for players to be vaccinated to enter Australia, on his participation in the first round of the Grand Slam 2022, where he will aim for a record 21st major title. On Tuesday, January 4, the world number 1 and nine-time winner of the tournament, who has never communicated on his vaccination status, announced on social networks that he was leaving for Melbourne, thanks to a ” exemption “.

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“I had a great time with my loved ones during the holidays and today I’m leaving for Down Under (Australia) with a waiver. Ahead of 2022 “, wrote the Serb in the caption of a photo of him at the airport with a bag of snowshoes, on his Instagram page.

The Australian Tennis Federation (TA), host of the Australian Open, has confirmed that a “Medical exemption” was awarded to Novak Djokovic so that he could play the first Major of the year. “Djokovic requested a medical exemption which was granted to him after a rigorous examination (of his request) involving two different and independent groups of medical experts”, said TA in a press release, hiding behind medical confidentiality so as not to reveal the reasons for the granting of this exception.

  • Act II. Wrath of the tennis world

The decision sparked an uproar in Australia, where the measures put in place to fight Covid-19 have been particularly strict since the start of the pandemic. This is a “Spit in the face of every inhabitant of the state of Victoria and every Australian”, wrote former tennis player Sam Groth, who became a television commentator, in a column published by the Melbourne daily “Herald Sun”. “You mean you have an exemption, but you don’t mean why? It’s disgusting hypocrisy ”, he added.

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“I believe that if it was me who was not vaccinated, I would not have obtained an exemption”British doubles player Jamie Murray, who is currently competing in the ATP Cup in Sydney, also complained.

And a prominent Australian doctor, Stephen Parnis, blasted on Twitter a “Distressing message” : “I don’t care if he’s a good tennis player. If he refuses to be vaccinated, he should not be allowed in. “ “If this exemption is true, it sends a distressing message to the millions of people who seek to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in Australia for themselves and for others. “

“It would be very easy for him to show on social networks that he had the Covid”, declares in the French sports daily “l’Equipe” the American Noah Rubin, 391st in the world and great defender of the poorly classified. “Everyone would move on! He and his team are aware of the image it conveys. He may not be spared by the public after that. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was booed when he entered the court, given all the efforts Australians have made since the start of the pandemic ”.

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“Of course I don’t like the developing situation. On the one hand, I’m sorry for him. But at the same time, he had known the conditions for many months when he made his decision ”, for his part commented the Spaniard Rafael Nadal on the sidelines of the Melbourne tournament, preparatory to the Australian Open. “He made his own decision, and everyone is free to make their decisions, but there are consequences”, added the world number 6.

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  • Act III. TA boss urges Djokovic to reveal reason for waiver

The Australian Department of Health foresees five cases of obtaining the medical exemption: having been the victim in the previous three months of an inflammatory heart disease, being in a serious and acute medical condition (having undergone for example a major surgical intervention or undergo major medical treatment but limited in time), have contracted Covid-19 in the last six months (vaccination is then postponed), have suffered a serious reaction following a previous injection of the anticovid vaccine without an alternative vaccine is possible, or if the vaccine poses a risk (such as developmental or mental disorders).

Australian Open manager Craig Tiley on Wednesday urged the tennis player to reveal the reason for the “Medical exemption” which will allow him to participate in the first Grand Slam of the year, without ever having said whether or not he was vaccinated against Covid-19. “It would certainly be useful if Novak explained the conditions under which he requested and obtained an exemption”, did he declare. “I encourage him to talk to the community about this… We have been through a very difficult time over the past two years and I would appreciate some responses to that. “

Novak Djokovic ordered to justify his vaccination status before the Australian Open

The Australian tennis boss, however, claimed that the world number 1 had not received any preferential treatment to obtain this exemption, during a process supervised by the Australian authorities and those of the State of Victoria.

  • Act IV. Australian authorities raise the tone

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison threatened to fire the Serbian on Wednesday “By the first plane” if this exemption was not justified. “We are waiting for his presentation and for him to provide us with evidence to support” this exemption, he said at a press conference.

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“If that evidence is insufficient, then he will not be treated any differently from anyone else, and he will return home on the first plane.” There will be no special rule for Novak Djokovic. Not the least. “

  • Act V. Djokovic blocked at the airport, his visa canceled

Novak Djokovic believed he had passed the most difficult. But arrived Wednesday January 5 in Melbourne, the player was finally stranded at the airport, because of a visa problem. According to the Australian press, the nine-time winner of the Australian Open would not have filled out the correct form for the type of visa he requested. His visa was canceled on Thursday.

“Novak Djokovic did not provide the appropriate information to enter Australia and his visa was therefore canceled. Foreign nationals who do not have a valid visa or whose visa has been canceled will be detained and deported from Australia ”customs said. He was asked to leave the country.

A decision that went very badly on the side of Serbia. Its chairman Aleksandar Vucic, claiming to have spoken to the player by phone, wrote on Instagram that “All of Serbia was with him (Djokovic)” and “The authorities were taking all necessary measures to ensure that the mistreatment of the best tennis player in the world ceases as soon as possible”.

Earlier, Djokovic’s father told Sputnik Serbia media outlet that his son had been “Held captive for five hours” at the airport.

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Act VI. The Serb files an appeal against his deportation and obtains a stay

Novak Djokovic has taken legal action against the decision of the Australian authorities. The player has obtained a reprieve: he will not be expelled before a new hearing scheduled for Monday.

Judge Anthony Kelly, before whom the hearing on Thursday took place, warned that justice would take its course without haste and without being influenced by the controversy. “The rider will not let himself be led by his mount”, he warned.

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A motley handful of supporters, from Serbs waving flags, anti-vaccines and migrant advocates, gathered in front of the Park Hotel in Melbourne, used by the government to detain people in an irregular situation, and where Djokovic was located .

As “The Age” recalls, Djokovic risks up to three years of inadmissibility if his visa was withdrawn, and he had thus entered the country illegally.

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