What a mess. Australia has embarrassed itself on the international stage with regard to the handling of the Australian Open.
Defending champion and ATP World Number One Men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic is threatening legal action after his visa was rejected at Melbourne airport.
That visa has now been cancelled by Australian authorities after he was unable to ‘provide appropriate evidence’ for his travel exemption related to vaccination status.
He spent eight hours in detention, despite having already endured a lengthy medical exemption process to allow him to play in the Australian Open without declaring his vaccination status.
“I have no idea what is happening, they are holding my son in captivity for five hours,” said Srdjan Djokovic, Novak’s father, after he was held by Australian Border Force. “This is a fight for the liberal world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world.”
Djokovic awaits deportation in what has to be one of the most ridiculous sagas to play out in the Victorian Covid pandemic.
It is, however, a neat solution to the drama facing Daniel Andrews’ government after his supporters went into a fury online after Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open.
As the exemption was performed by a blind panel of medical professionals, it was impossible to revoke despite the public backlash. Now, Tennis Australia do not have to, as Djokovic is unable to enter the country to compete.
His lawyers intend to challenge the decision, especially as his travel into Victoria was prearranged.
“Today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!” said Djokovic, on January 4, 2022.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was less enthusiastic about the World Number One arriving in Australia, saying in a press conference, “We await his [Djokovic’s] presentation and what evidence he provides to support that. If that evidence is insufficient then he won’t be treated any differently to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home.”
But the Prime Minister has been treating celebrities and politicians differently to ordinary Australians for the duration of the pandemic, frequently granting travel exemptions to reality TV stars, big business representatives, and travelling political figures. Some were able to skip mandatory hotel quarantine and isolate at home. The difference with Djokovic is that he has refused to disclose his vaccination status.
In addition, other players competing in the Australian Open are already in the country with the same exemption, adding weight to the argument that Djokovic’s treatment may be political.
“Australian Border Force did not request Victorian government support a visa. Australian Border Force reached [out] to the Victorian government to validate their public statements about their support for his entry, and whether Victoria had further information related to his medical exemption documentation,” said a spokeswoman for the Australian Border Force.
It was later confirmed that the Victorian government did not support the visa claim.
If this was to be the government’s position, why did they allow Djokovic to travel to Australia in the expectation of competing and submit himself to the medical review?
The ATP Grand Slam is a privilege to host and a big deal when it comes to crucial dollars to salvage the post-Covid economy. When the Daniel Andrews government and Tennis Australia introduced a blanket vaccination rule on tennis players, they probably did not expect to ban the Men’s World Number One ATP star Novak Djokovic – who is also the tournament’s defending champion.
Djokovic’s exemption was arguably more of a political problem than a medical one, with the Victorian government coming under pressure to punish the tennis star for escaping the state’s harsh medical mandates that have caused mass protests for the last half of 2021.