Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s arrival in Melbourne for the Australian Open was welcomed with a political storm after the Serb’s visa was dropped. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that Djokovic’s visa was cancelled because of his failure to prove enough evidence for a medical exemption for Covid-19 vaccine.
After Novak’s detention, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused the Victorian government of “maltreatment” of the 20-time Grand Slam champion and vowed to “fight for Novak”.
Novak was initially allowed to compete in the Australian Open after being granted a highly controversial vaccine exemption.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE AIRPORT
Novak Djokovic was detained for hours overnight upon his arrival at the Melbourne airport, after the Australian Border Force raised alarm over his entry visa. He was awaiting permission to enter the country after it emerged that his team had applied for a visa that does not allow for medical exemptions.
"Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled,” said a statement by the Australian Border Force.
The tennis star was then purportedly questioned by the authorities for hours prior to being moved to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne.
WHAT SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAID
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic blasted the Australian government. Vucic said that he spoke with Djokovic over the phone and assured the tennis star that "the whole of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world's best tennis player ends as soon as possible".
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"In line with all standards of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, justice and truth."
He later also added, “Novak is strong, we all know him.”
Vucic had reached out to the Australian ambassador in Belgrade and demanded the release of Djokovic.
WHAT AUSTRALIAN PM SAID
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, without beating around the bush over the incident, said that Djokovic not was not welcome in Australia and will be deported.
He also said, “No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.”
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
WAS HELD CAPTIVE IN A ROOM FOR FIVE HOURS, SAYS DJOKOVIC'S FATHER
Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, was outraged by the treatment of his son and mentioned to Russian media that his son "was held captive for five hours" at the airport.
“Tonight they can throw him in a dungeon, tomorrow they can put him in chains,” he said. The old man later added that his son “won’t tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy.”
Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic had also posted a picture of the world number one's team sitting tight while they waited for the tennis pro who was being questioned by the airport authorities.
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THE VACCINE EXEMPTION GENERATED MAJOR BACKLASH
The vaccine exemption, granted by the Australian Open organisers to Novak Djokovic received major backlash from Australians, who have endured the strictest lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions for the past two years.
Djokovic made the announcement about the vaccine exemption on his Twitter on January 4.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
Lawyers of Novak Djokovic moved court over the tennis star's deportation by Australia. Hearing in the 34-year-old’s appeal in Australia's Federal Circuit and Family Court against the visa cancellation has been adjourned until 10 am (AEST) on Monday, January 10. For now, Djokovic, who is at an immigration hotel, will remain in Australia till the court reaches a verdict.