Updated: January 8, 2022 12:30:23 pm
Defending champion Novak Djokovic’s visa cancellation, hours after landing in Australia after getting an exemption though he has not revealed his vaccination status, has snowballed into a hot button issue. His lawyers have appealed his deportation and the world’s best player will know his fate after a hearing on Monday.
On Tuesday, the World No.1 posted on social media that he has been granted an “exemption permission” to participate in the Australian Open. As per protocols, all participants have to be either fully vaccinated or secure a medical exemption to skip the 14-day quarantine required before entering Victoria.
Tennis Australia’s ok
Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley, later in the day, explained in a statement that players seeking exemption had to undergo a two-stage process where the application is assessed by a Tennis Australia panel and then by one of the Victorian government. “For tennis players, it was a process that was above and beyond what anyone coming to Australia would have experienced,” Tiley told a news outlet.
The long flight, fight
Djokovic landed late at night in Melbourne airport on Wednesday and was whisked away by government officials. The Australian Border Force said Djokovic failed to meet ‘exemption’ requirements. Djokovic’s visa was cancelled and the star was taken to a hotel in the suburbs that served as a detention centre.
No special rules
Novak’s ‘exemption’ had created a furore in Australia where the citizens have had to endure strict lockdowns. Australia prime minister Scott Morrison said: “If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any differently to anyone else and will be on the next plane home – there should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic,” Morrison said in Canberra.
Australia’s Minister of Health Greg Hunt said the world’s best player had failed to provide “appropriate standards of proof” for his exemption to border officials.
Pushback from Serbia
Djokovic’s detention has caused a furore back in Serbia as president Aleksandar Vucic blasted Australia and accussed the authorities of ‘maltreating’ the tennis star. “I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately,” Vucic said in a stern statement.
Djokovic’s team launched an appeal against the visa cancellation, and the judge ruled that Djokovic would not be deported until the final hearing, scheduled for Monday at the Federal Circuit Court, takes place. It is not clear if he will spend the weekend at the detention hotel. Tennis Australia has said it would like to know by Tuesday if Djokovic would be allowed to play or not for scheduling purposes.
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