Djokovic has left Australia and a potential payday of US$2.1 million behind.
Novak Djokovic is the men’s world tennis number one and flew to Melbourne, Australia from Dubai to compete in the Australian Open. But then he was told his visa was rejected after trying to bypass an Australian entry requirement for COVID-19 and that he had to go back home.
Initially, he was granted a medical exemption by two health panels to be allowed in the country even though he wasn’t vaxxed (a requirement for people coming into Australia). Then, he was detained at an immigration center and his visa was revoked for not meeting the entry requirements.
Afterward, a judge overturned the decision and released him from the center, and then most recently, the government stepped in to revoke his visa saying that they were worried it would fuel anti-vax sentiment.
So, Djokovic won’t play at the Australian Open?
Yep. Now, Djokovic has left Australia and a potential payday of US$2.1 million behind.
He said he was “extremely disappointed" with the ruling but respected the decision.
“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate,” he wrote in an email statement.
Throughout the saga, Djokovic also faced a possible three-year ban from entering Australia, but according to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs, the prohibition was waived because of “compelling circumstances.”
What have the country leaders said?
It’s caused a fair bit of debate in the country, with an opinion poll of 1,607 people by Melbourne’s Age newspaper showing that almost three-quarters of Australians believe Djokovic should have been sent home.
While Djokovic has been here, anti-vaxxers in Australia have been using the hashtag #IStandWithDjokovic on social media.
“Rightly or wrongly he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and his presence here is perceived to contribute to that,” barrister Stephen Lloyd, acting for the government, told the court.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed “the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe," but his government faces criticism at home and abroad for its handling of the affair. But back in Serbia, President Aleksandar Vučić wasn’t as happy, saying that it was an attack on both the player and his country.
“They mistreated him for 10 days only to hand him a verdict that they had in mind from the very first day,” Vučić told reporters in Belgrade after a phone call with the tennis star, the state news agency Tanjug reported.
Djokovic was misled by having been offered an exemption to compete without being vaccinated, “but then the harassment began, a witch hunt against one person and country,” Vučić said. “They wanted to show how the world order works.”
What have people in the industry said?
“Australian Open is much more important than any player,” world number six Rafael Nadal told reporters Saturday. “Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt, but there is no one player in history that’s more important than an event.”
Patrick Mouratolglou, the coach of Serena Williams, tweeted that “The big loser of this mess is the tournament. The only good news is that we will hopefully start talking about tennis.”
The Association of Tennis Professionals said in a statement that Djokovic was one of the sport’s greatest champions and that his absence from the Australian Open was “a loss for the game”.
“We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon. ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players,” the association added.
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