Novak Djokovic had his visa refused and will be deported from Australia after traveling to the country in search of his 10th Australian Open singles championship, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald first reported.
This comes after Djokovic was denied entry into Australia when he arrived in Melbourne for the tournament. Djokovic was granted a medical exemption from tournament organizers to compete in the event, even though he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. All players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel in order to take part in the event.
Earlier this week, Australia prime minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic would “be on the next plane home” if his vaccination exemption request wasn’t “sufficient.” Morrison apparently deemed Djokovic’s request as insufficient, as he issued a harsh message to the world No. 1 after his visa refusal.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders,” Morrison tweeted. “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 Victorian government reportedly rejected a late-night request to accommodate Djokovic’s visa just hours before he landed in Melbourne, but Djokovic’s lawyers are reportedly in the process of challenging the country’s decision.
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic is getting involved in Djokovic’s visa situation.
“I’ve just finished my telephone conversation with Novak Djokovic,” Vucic posted on Instagram Wednesday. “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.”
Vucic also has summoned the Australian ambassador in Belgrade and wants Djokovic immediately released.
Djokovic receiving an exemption had caused outrage throughout the country, and the situation came to a head on Wednesday.
According to The Times of London, Djokovic was stopped at border control due to the visa issue. A member of Djokovic’s team reportedly requested a type of visa that doesn’t apply to someone that has been granted a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccinations.
Prior to the decision to cancel his visa, Djokovic was being held in a room with police after landing in Melbourne, according to his father Srdijan Djokovic.
“Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,” Srdjan Djokovic told the B92 internet portal. “In front of the room are two policemen.”
Srdijan Djokovic added later on Wednesday that he believes his son is being held “captive” and that “if they don’t release him in the next half an hour, we will fight them on the street.”
The Times of London report states that the federal government has asked for help in correcting the visa issue, but the state government has refused to step in.
“The federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,” Victorian sports minister Jaala Pulford wrote on Twitter. “We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open grand slam. We’ve always been clear on two points: Visa approvals are a matter for the federal government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
According to Australian Open organizers, Djokovic didn’t benefit from any “special favor” after receiving a medical exemption in order to participate in the Grand Slam tournament. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley stated that 26 unvaccinated players applied for the medical exemption and that only a “handful” were granted.
“We made it extra difficult for anyone applying for an application to ensure it was the right process and to make sure the medical experts deal with it independently,” Tiley said. “There has been no special favor or special opportunity granted to Novak Djokovic or any tennis player. There’s been a process that goes above and beyond the normal process for everyone.”
Tiley also revealed that the reasoning for Djokovic receiving the exemption will remain private because “the personal information of any applicant is redacted to ensure the independence of the process.”
Earlier in January, the Victorian government released a statement regarding the tournament’s exemption policy and said that it has a “two-stage independent process” in order to verify if any player has “a genuine medical condition that meets the criteria for an exemption.” Clearly, they decided that Djokovic does.
Djokovic was slated to challenge for his 21st Grand Slam title and is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam singles titles in men’s history. Nadal will be participating in the Australian Open after recently testing positive for COVID-19. Federer won’t be taking part in the event as he is recovering from knee surgery.