The battle between Novak Djokovic and the Australian Open has been going for months with the world No. 1 refusing to get vaccinated, a condition required to enter Australia. Djokovic’s father compared the nation’s requirements to “blackmail,” and it appeared Djokovic would not play in the first Grand Slam of the year because of his vaccination status. Then he was allowed, then he was denied entry to Australia. It’s all a mess, so let’s break it down.
Earlier this week it appeared Djokovic “won” by receiving an unearned, nonsensical, and ludicrous medical exception which would allow him to enter Australia despite not being vaccinated.
The move was met with immediate scrutiny by the public. The blatant corruption of Djokovic getting an exception because he’s a famous tennis player while Australians continue to limit their exposure and be subject to contact tracing left many furious. There was no apparent reason other than money to break the rules. Tennis Australia was desperate to get the world No. 1 playing in the Open with Roger Federer already missing the tournament, and Rafael Nadal being a late addition after it was expected he’d miss the event. So they found every possible way to make it happen.
Now it’s blown up in everyone’s face. Outcry was so pronounced that Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepped in, saying Djokovic would not be treated any differently than any foreign national attempting to enter the country under an exemption. Morrison said that Djokovic would need to show documentation for his exemption, or he would be sent back “on the next plane” to Serbia.
So at this point it seems fairly simple, right? The Australian Open backed down on requiring Djokovic to get vaccinated because they were desperate, but got their hand slapped by the government who stepped in after people became furious. But goodness, I promise you this isn’t the end of the story.
On early Thursday morning, local time, Djokovic was in-route to Australia. Tennis Australia was desperately trying to petition the federal government to sponsor Djokovic’s exemption, seemingly understanding the world No. 1 would need help, because his documents wouldn’t stand on their own. In turn, the federal government went to the Victorian state government, where the Australian Open is being held, asking for their sponsorship of Djokovic’s entry, as many Covid restrictions are left to the states. Ultimately the Victorian government said no, and Djokovic landed in the city of Melbourne, where he was denied entry while border officials reviewed his documents.
Sports minister Jaala Pulford explained the proceedings on Twitter, saying:
“The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
We’ve always been clear on two points: Visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
It gets better.
This story is still unfolding, but as it’s current being reported not only did Djokovic not have sufficient documentation to earn a medical exemption in Australia, but didn’t possess a Visa that allowed him to seek a medical exemption as an unvaccinated individual. It seems the entire ordeal of bringing the world No. 1 to play in the Australian Open was predicated on the belief he would get preferential treatment, but public outcry made that impossible to execute without being noticed.
After being detained six hours, now Srban Djokovic, Novak’s father, is saying his son is being held captive, and wants to fight government officials in the street — which is a totally normal and measured response.
As Novak Djokovic’s detention at Melbourne Airport extends beyond six hours, his father Srdan tells media, via @sunriseon7: ‘They are holding my son captive. If they don’t release him in the next half an hour, we will fight them on the street.’
— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) January 5, 2022
Early on Thursday morning local time, The Age in Australia reported that Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled, and he would be denied entry to the country. His lawyers are in the process of appealing, however it seems unlikely he would win a case based on the details, and will now likely miss the Australian Open.
We’ll have more updates on this story as they become available.