A disappointed Novak Djokovic left Australia this week with his hopes of winning a 21st Grand Slam title dashed. The Australian government and judiciary minced no words in upholding the second rejection of his visa.
Now that Djokovic is back to his home country Serbia, the French and Spanish governments have spoken on the tennis superstar's participation in tournaments on their land.
Novak Djokovic. Photo: Getty Images
The France government drafted a new law on Monday, January 17, that prevents the entry of unvaccinated persons in the country. Earlier, Sports Minister Roxane Maracineanu in an interview to Franceinfo Radio said that Novak Djokovic would be allowed to play at the French Open in May and will not be subjected to any quarantine requirements even if he is not vaccinated.
On Monday, however, the Emmanuel Macron-led French government took a U-turn.
In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, hinting at Djokovic, said that anyone entering Spain would have to comply with the health rules of the country.
Here is a quick brief on how the two governments have reacted:
1. FRANCE'S NEW LAW
The new law drafted by the French Assembly threatens to ban Djokovic’s participation in the French Open in May 2022. Djokovic was expected to participate in the tournament but the new Covid pass has changed that.
France’s lower house passed a law by 215 to 88, to give a final approval to a law that bans the entry of unvaccinated people in restaurants, sports venues and other venues, Daily Mail reported. The law applies to every individual above 16 and it will take effect shortly.
French Parliamentarian Christopher Castaner said that the new law will apply to anyone who wants to play in the French Open, a reversal from France's earlier stance where the government talked of creating a “bubble” around the tournament, Associated Press reported.
2. FRANCE SPORTS MINISTER CHANGES TONE
France Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu. Photo: Getty Images
France’s Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu backed the new law passed by the French Parliament that seeks to prevent Djokovic’s entry at the French Open.
Speaking to BFM Television on Monday, she said that a vaccine certificate is necessary for those living in France as well as for foreigners who come to France for vacation or sports competitions, Associated Press reported. She added that to do your job, to come for pleasure or leisure, to practise a sport, it will be necessary to present a proof of vaccine.
On Friday, Maracineanu had said that Djokovic would be allowed to play at the French Open even if he is unvaccinated. She had said that Djokovic would not follow the same organisational arrangements as those who are vaccinated. He will be able to compete because the protocols, the health bubble allows it, Reuters quoted her as saying.
3. SPAIN PM TRAINS GUNS
Spain PM Pedro Sanchez . Photo: Getty Images
After France, Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also made clear that anyone entering Spain would have to comply with the country's health rules, Reuters reported on Monday. When asked whether Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic would be allowed to compete in Spain after being deported from Australia, the PM said that any sportsperson who wishes to compete in the country must comply with the health rules of Spain.
Djokovic, who also owns a house in Spain in the southern resort town Marbella, was spotted practising at the tennis court in Spain on December 31, 2021 and he was also seen playing tennis on streets on December 24, 2021, a few days before he went to Australia.
4. GERMAN CHANCELLOR ALSO SPEAKS
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was visiting Spain on Monday, also backed Spain PM Sanchez saying that different rules in different countries must be respected. He added that everyone has to abide by the rules, no matter who they are.
5. DJOKOVIC'S AUSTRALIAN SAGA
Novak Djokovic spent 11 turbulent days in Australia, where his visa was cancelled twice by the Australian government authorties. On January 16, the second rejection of his visa was upheld by the Australian Federal Court, killing all his hopes of defending his 21st Grand Slam title. The Australian Open began in Melbourne on Monday, January 17.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke rejected Novak Djokovic's visa on public sentiment grounds. The Serbian player left Australia on Sunday, January 16, for Dubai, and finally reached Belgrade, Serbia, where he received a heroic welcome from the people and the government.
Djokovic's visa saga in Australia played out like a tragedy, which culminated in the tennis superstar having to leave the country after a 11-day battle with the government over immigration and vaccine exemption.