I could barely concentrate on anything else yesterday, I was so focused on the hours-long drama in Australia. It’s confusing with the time difference, but basically as soon as the American East Coast was waking up, Novak Djokovic was touching down in Melbourne, Australia on Wednesday night. He had announced his journey as he was flying out of Dubai on Tuesday. In that social media announcement, Djoker stated plainly that he was going to Oz with “an exemption permission,” meaning he had gone through the Australian Open’s rigmarole to get an exemption to their vaccine mandate. That social media post, along with Tennis Australia’s confirmation of the exemption, set off a huge, political firestorm in Australia. As soon as Novak touched down in Melbourne, he entered one of the most chaotic scenes of his already-chaotic life and career.
Australians were justifiably angry that the #1 tennis player in the world was entering their country on what was likely a bullsh-t “medical exemption,” especially given that Djoker has made many public statements about being anti-vaccine and pro-pseudoscience. As soon as Novak got off the plane, he was taken to a holding room in the airport and questioned by authorities about his visa and his (lack of) vaccine status. They reportedly separated him from his team (he was traveling with his two coaches, Goran Ivanisevic and Marián Vajda) and took his phone. His holding room was guarded by police officers. He was basically kept in that room for more than 11 hours overnight (in Oz) as everyone tried to untangle the political and bureaucratic mess. Then, about twelve hours after Novak’s plane arrived, the Australian authorities said that his visa had been cancelled and they were deporting him (or just putting him back on a plane).
World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia on Thursday after initially being granted a medical exemption from the country’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements so that he could play in the Australian Open.
The tennis star, who was left stranded at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport overnight amid a brewing political maelstrom, was issued a letter by the Australian government saying his visa had been denied and he would be removed from the countryon Thursday, a source close to the tournament told Reuters. Australia’s border force later confirmed his visa had been revoked.
The player would file an injunction to prevent him being sent back, the source said. In the meantime, Djokovic was on his way to a Melbourne hotel.
In a dramatic series of events through the Melbourne night, Djokovic touched down at Tullamarine airport Wednesday about 11:30 p.m. local time after a 14-hour flight from Dubai, but was ushered into an isolation room under police guard when Australian officials said that his visa did not allow for medical exemptions. The source told Reuters that the visa and paperwork that Djokovic had used to gain entry into the country was the same as three other players who had already arrived.
The move by the Australian government threatened to cause a diplomatic incident between Canberra and Belgrade.
“I’ve just finished my telephone conversation with Novak Djokovic,” Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic posted on Instagram. “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. In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice. Novak is strong, as we all know.”
Yes, this was full-on a HUGE international incident. Djokovic spoke directly to the Serbian president once he was given his phone back. He also spoke to his father, who threatened to “fight in the street” to ensure that his son was removed from Australian custody. Serbia’s ambassador to Australia was on the ground, at the airport, trying to sort out the visa issues. The actual bureaucratic part of this is a mess on the Australian side, and they were clearly engaging in political acts to “look tough.” That being said, I 100% agree with the Djokovic critics in this situation: all of this for what? Novak Djokovic just needs to get vaccinated. Stop with all of this bullsh-t and get vaccinated, you f–king dope.
So, after all of this, Djokovic’s newly appointed deportation lawyer appeared in a court hearing about whether Novak would be deported. The judge refused to be rushed, and a final hearing is set for Monday. But it’s also possible that Novak could be put on a plane before the Monday hearing. It’s also possible that Novak will need to sit in a quarantine hotel for the next four days ahead of the hearing. What a huge mess. Oh, and Aussie outlets are saying that Novak’s initial medical exemption was actually different than other players’ exemptions – Djoker apparently only got one doctor to sign off on it. Hm.
Prime minister of Oz:
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.