Novak Djokovic has had his Australian visa cancelled for a second time after a judge overturned the original decision on Monday (10 January).
Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has exercised his powers to reimpose the penalty, meaning Djokovic’s hopes of winning a 10th Australian Open title appear to be at an end.
The world Number One has ignited intense backlash after he was given a medical exemption in order to participate at the Australian Open which begins in just under a week’s time.
Novak Djokovic had initially been held by the Australian Government as they attempted to deport him but it now appears as though the tennis Champion will not be deported from the Country as he has provided sufficient evidence of having a Covid related illness that exempted him from receiving the vaccine.
The tennis champion has admitted to attending an interview for l’Equipe in December despite testing positive for Covid-19. Djokovic took to Instagram to clarify ‘ongoing misinformation’ about his movements where he also revealed that his agent had made a mistake when filling in the form that covers recent travel.
Novak Djokovic won the competition in 2021 and will be hopeful of breaking the record of 20 Grand Slam titles - a record he currently shares with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
During the 2021 season, Djokovic had also been close to holding the title for all four Grand Slams in a calendar year but was beaten in the final of the US Open by Daniil Medvedev.
With the rapid and extreme rise of the Omicron variant, the Australian Open organisers have been working closely with the Victorian Government in order to ensure the event is run as safely as possible.
These protocols include full vaccination statuses for participants and fans and if players are not vaccinated then they must apply for a medical exemption which is likely to be granted only in extreme circumstances.
Djokovic has not been vaccinated, and as such, it had been highly unlikely that he would be able to compete at the Australian Open. It had been revealed on Tuesday 4 January 2022 that the Serbian would be able to compete after being granted a medical exemption in order to do so.
Why hasn’t Novak Djokovic been vaccinated?
It is not known why the 20 time Grand Slam winner has not been vaccinated but there has long been speculation of him being simply against the vaccine rather than their being a specific medical exemption.
The 34-year-old has also opted for alternative medical treatments in the past and admitted that he cried for three days with guilt after he had to choose conventional elbow surgery in 2018.
News from the court hearings have now suggested that Djokovic suffered a Covid-related illness which meant he would have been unable to receive the vaccine.
What has the World Number One said about vaccines?
Djokovic sparked widespread criticism when in announced in April 2020 via a Facebook interview with former world Number 1 Amelie Mauresmo that he was “opposed to vaccination” and he “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.” He also then admitted he didn’t know if his mind would change overtime.
Additionally, he said he was “curious about well-being and how we can empower our metabolism to be in the best shape to defend against impostors like COVID-19.”
After the initial statements, he then followed up to clarify his position by saying “I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body.
“I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.
“To be honest, just like the rest of the world I am a bit confused. Despite having access to information and resources, I am left in doubt about what could be the best thing to do.”
In October 2021, Djokovic had been refusing to reveal whether he had received the vaccine or not. Speaking to the Serbian Newspaper Blic, Djokovic said:
“It is a private matter.. That is an immoderate question. Too many people today allow themselves such freedom to ask things and condemn a person. Whatever you answer - ‘Yes, I didn’t, maybe, I don’t know, I’m thinking!’ - they will abuse it.
“The media has become… I have no words to describe it. It spreads fear and panic among people and I don’t want to participate in that rift. I feel that everyone is hostile. I don’t want to give them a reason to write some things about me.”
The world number one has previously shown concern and scepticism over vaccine mandates on the ATP Tour and fears that the side effects could affect his tennis.
What did Djokovic say in his Instagram post?
On 12 January 2022, the World Number One said this:
“I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result.
“This is misinformation which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family...
“...I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going o the event, and it was negative.
“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.
“The next day on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a l’Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the l’Equipe interview.
“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the l’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.
“On this issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf - as I told immigration officials on my arrival - and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.
“While I felt it was important to address and clarify misinformation I will not be making any further comment out of utmost respect for the Australian Government and their authorities and the current process.
“It is always an honour and a privilege to play in the Australian Open. The Australian Open is much-loved by players, fans and the community, not just in Victoria and in Australia, but around the globe, and I just want to have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and perform before one of the best crowds in the world.”
What have the Australians been saying?
The former Australian Rules player, Kevin Bartlett, tweeted that Australians “have been taken for fools.”
Another former player Corey McKernan tweeted “People with loved ones who are dying/some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states.
“You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re World Number one you get a pass?”
The Australian Sports journalist Andy Maher also took to twitter to say “Australians have been denied for two years, but this bloke - who’s taken extraordinary liberties in the face of coronavirus - gets his exemption.
“Novak Djokovic is an all-time great, but he ain’t essential.”
There have also been numerous comments under Novak Djokovic’s tweet where he announced he would be attending the Open, with one saying “A medical exemption? Very few people have medical reasons not to be vaccinated. Don’t expect a good reception when you get here.”
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