Novak Djokovic may not get to defend his Australian Open title as he has been denied entry into the country. In late-night drama, Djokovic’s visa was canceled as it did not meet the requirements for an exemption.
The World No 1, who has refused to reveal his vaccination status, had been granted medical exemption to compete at the Slam.
For those asking, all players go through the same visa process overseen by Tennis Australia to play the Australian Open (as non Australians are currently not able to enter). So it beggars belief that Djokovic is the only player that has had his visa granted and then rescinded
— 🎗️ Paul McNamee (@PaulFMcNamee) January 5, 2022
The Australian Open is the first major to carry out a vaccination mandate and the fact that Djokovic had been able to get an exemption was seen as preferential treatment. It sparked public outrage, especially in the host state of Victoria.
But border authorities did not accept the exemption. The Australian Border Force issued a statement saying Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements.
“The rule is very clear,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a news conference Thursday.
“You need to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Djokovic’s medical exemption was reviewed by the border officials who checked “the integrity and the evidence behind it.”
Djokovic will appeal the decision, but Hunt said that, “if a visa is canceled, somebody will have to leave the country.”
Srdjan Djokovic, Novak’s father, told the B92 internet portal that his son was held at the airport “in a room which no one can enter” and guarded by two police officers.
Morrison confirmed the cancellation in a Twitter post: “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.”
The issue may escalate into a diplomatic issue as Serbian president has also got involved.
President Aleksandar Vucic, who claimed he had spoken to Djokovic, said the Serbian authorities were taking measures “so the harassment of the best tennis player in the world be stopped in the shortest possible time.”