Australian Open Djokovic
Defending men's champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic gestures during a practice session on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. AP Photo/Mark Baker)
tennis

Djokovic in Australian Open draw as visa saga continues

23 Comments
By JOHN PYE and ROD McGUIRK

Novak Djokovic remained in limbo even after he was included in the draw for the Australian Open on Thursday, with the tennis star still awaiting a government decision on whether to deport him for not being vaccinated for COVID-19.

Despite the cloud hanging over Djokovic’s ability to compete, Australian Open organizers included the top seed in the draw. He is slated to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, who is ranked world No. 78., in the opening round next week.

No. 1-ranked Djokovic had his visa canceled on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was rejected, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been considering the question since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.

Expectations of a pending decision were raised when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called an afternoon news conference after a national Cabinet meeting. Speculation heightened when the tournament draw was postponed by 75 minutes to a time after Morrison’s news conference.

The wait continued after both events concluded, with Morrison referring questions on Djokovic to his immigration minister.

“These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time,” Morrison said.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also declined comment after the draw ceremony for the tournament that starts Monday.

The 34-year-old Djokovic has been trying to focus his attention on the playing court in the four days since he was released from immigration detention. He held a practice session at Rod Laver Arena, his fourth this week, in mid-afternoon.

He was on the practice court Wednesday when a statement posted on his social media accounts acknowledged that his Australian travel declaration form contained incorrect information.

In the statement, Djokovic blamed “human error” by his support team for failing to declare that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia.

Giving false information on the form could be grounds for deportation. That could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

Djokovic acknowledged the lapses when he sought to clarify what he called “continuing misinformation” about his movements after he became infected last month. It also raised questions about his public appearances in Serbia last month, particularly a media interview he attended despite knowing he was positive.

It was another twist in a saga over whether the athlete should be allowed stay in Australia despite not being vaccinated.

The initial news that Djokovic was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules to enter the country provoked an outcry and the ensuing dispute has since overshadowed the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians disapproved of the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion coming to Melbourne to compete in breach of the nation’s tough pandemic quarantine rules.

“Most of us thought because Mr. Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice that he would be asked to leave,” Joyce said. “Well, that was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view.”

“The vast majority of Australians ... didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or ... the king of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with,” Joyce added.

No. 4-seeded player Stefanos Tsitsipas told India’s WION TV channel that Djokovic seemed to be “playing by his own rules.”

“No one would have really thought, you know, ‘I can just come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols that they gave me,’” Tsitsipas said. “It takes a lot of daring to do, I think, and putting a Grand Slam kind of at risk.”

The debate over Djokovic’s presence in Australia rages against a backdrop of surging COVID-19 infections across the nation.

Victoria state, which hosts the Australian Open, on Thursday eased seven-day isolation rules for close contacts of those infected in sectors including education and transport to curb the number of employees staying away from work.

The state recorded 37,169 new cases in the latest 24-hour period on Thursday, as well as 25 deaths and 953 hospitalizations. With cases surging, the Victoria state government moved to limit ticket sales to the tennis tournament in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission.

Djokovic’s visa status has been debated since he arrived more than a week ago, after posting on social media that he had received exemption permission.

At issue is whether he has a valid exemption to strict rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19.

His exemption to compete was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa upon arrival before a federal judge overturned that decision. Lawyers for the government have said an infection was only grounds for an exemption in cases in which the coronavirus caused severe illness — though it’s not clear why he was issued a visa if that’s the case.

If Djokovic’s visa is canceled, his lawyers could go back to court to apply for an injunction that would prevent him from being forced to leave the country.

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23 Comments

Comments have been disabled You can no longer respond to this thread.

I liked Djoko, but he lost my support on this case. Not about his vaccination status but all the doubts surrounding his declarations and vaccine certificate.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

He will have his visa cancelled today.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Pack your bags, Djokovic. You are going home in disgrace!

7 ( +11 / -4 )

He will have his visa cancelled today.

Good. A study in selfishness.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

He won't make to the French open either - Macron has made his displeasure very clear with non-vaccinated people.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

No wrong The joker will be defending his tittle. Nothing ,nothing the Immigration Minster can do but cancel his this visa. Good but it won’t effect the Joker until after the open. As the minute they cancel his visa The Judge will place a injunction on the order. The injunction will run out 3 day after the open. Then the hearing will be heard. But not until after the open had finished. It is irrelevant what has happened the hearing will not be heard until after the open. So those hoping and willing the cancelation of his visa will probably get their wish but it that wish involves the Joker not defending his tittle. bad luck. Won’t happen. Rules are rules.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

He is unable to provide a credible medical certificate for his lack of vaccination. I'm surprised the judge granted him entry the other day. The law is, no vaccination, no entry into Australia. Suck it up bottercup! You're out!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

When in doubt . . . Deport!

Jokovich has lied, he's been dishonest, he's endangered others when he knew he tested positive. What more do you need to consider?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The fact that he's still in Australia and in the draw for the Open suggests that the government's case for deporting him is weak and could face another court challenge. If Hawke had a strong case, Djokovic would already be in another country.

The whole thing is a farce in my opinion. Djokovic poses no danger to anyone except the egos of politicians and bureaucrats struggling to control a fear narrative that is slowly crumbling in the face of food supply test kit shortages and a virus wave that the vaunted vaccines are not stopping.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

Djokovic poses no danger to anyone...

I agree, its not like he attends public event with children knowing he's covid positive...

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Cringe. The French Minster of Sport has put forward rules regarding entry of un vaccinated elite sport persons which the government approved so to by pass laws for ordinary travelers. That make me cringe. Not the Morrison government who has since the USA open to avoid the un vaccinated joker entry. Make me say stupid. For a government that shown that they don’t even understand the own rules and laws, who also think lying to the French government is better than telling the truth have no one to blame but their ineptitude selves.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Aussiewood - where all the Hollywood 'talent' and their 1,000s of film-making staff have flown frequently in and out of; seems to have managed to stay under the critics' radar, despite by-passing and avoiding the restrictions and quarantine that the general public must comply with.

Worldwide, there seems to be two sets of Rules, one for the talent and celebrities, sportspersons, diplomats and other so-called elites, and the second for Joe Public.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Expect a decision today just after the closing of business so no court case can be today and he has to wait till next week to appeal. They want him to stew in the immigration detainee hotel again. Makes the government look tougher that way.

This is the simple reason the minister has been delaying the decision.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Ship him back to his country! What a disgrace to the world and the pandemic!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Nole you are winner.

Dont understand hate in comments above.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

1 million cases in Australia and they are worried about this because he is unvaxxed???

What complete bunk! Just shows how draconian the ruleas are in Aust! Iff he has has CIVID he has better immunity the the vaccinated!

Personally I am not a huge fan but this is just an absolute joke!

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Follow the rules. He's good at tennis but whether he plays or not will change nothing, it's totally unimportant.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Iff he has has CIVID he has better immunity the the vaccinated!

Yeah right, his immunity is so good he keeps catching Covid. Not to mention appearing in public around many people while he was under health orders to isolate.

Djokovic is a liar and a grub. Kick him out!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Fighto!Today  11:37 am JST

Iff he has has CIVID he has better immunity the the vaccinated!

Yeah right, his immunity is so good he keeps catching Covid. Not to mention appearing in public around many people while he was under health orders to isolate.

you mean like the 10 week valid vaccines???....

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

anon: so kick out the 15 plus non vaccinated child aged between 12 and 5 traveling all over Australia for the pass 60 days with the English Cricket Team ? Laws state non vaccinated children between 12and 5 ages of non residents Australian are not allow entry. Do you want them place into detentions also. Well rules are rules. If none of those pushing to deport Djokovic don’t rely about these children illegal entry your comment are just pure bias and hate speech.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Soon enough there will be regret about the previous demonization of people who caught COVID.

now that “good people” who got triple vaxxed are getting it too, it’s not anyone’s fault now.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

demonization of people who caught COVID.

Shrill hyperbole, an attempt to portray anti-vaxxers as victims, which they are not.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Just announced on the evening news in Australia: His visa has been cancelled and he is on his way back to Serbia.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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