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Djokovic preps for Australian Open while awaiting visa decision

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic gestures as he practices at Melbourne Park as questions remain over the legal battle regarding his visa to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Novak Djokovic, the world number one tennis player, hit the court on Friday to prepare for the Australian Open as he awaits word on whether his visa would be revoked for the second time, putting his pursuit for a record 21st major tennis title in jeopardy.

The news: The incumbent champion, Djokovic, was seeded first in Thursday’s draw and was set to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in his first match on Monday or Tuesday.

  • After a court reversed a previous revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday, a decision to deny his visa on COVID-19 entrance regulations could set up a second court battle for the Serbian tennis star.
  • According to a source in Prime Minister, Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party, the government is “seriously leaning” toward cancelling the visa again.
  • When Djokovic, a vaccine sceptic, stated last week that he would be travelling to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption from the need that visitors be immunised against COVID-19, he sparked great outrage in Australia.

What happened: When he arrived in Australia, the Australian Border Force determined that his exemption was void, and he was placed in an immigration detention hotel among asylum seekers for many days.

  • In the previous two weeks, Australia has experienced some of the world’s longest lockdowns, has a 90 per cent adult vaccination rate, and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases.

What they’re saying: On Friday morning television, Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham stated that visa choices were a matter for Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, but that the government’s policy guidelines were “very clear.”

  • “That is, non-Australian citizens who enter Australia should be double dose vaccinated unless they have a clear and genuine medical exemption against it,” he stated.
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek world number four, said Djokovic was “playing by his own rules” and making vaccinated players “look like fools”.
  • “No one really imagined they could come to Australia uninfected and not have to follow the regulations,” Tsitsipas said in an interview. “It takes a lot of daring to do and putting the grand slam at danger, which I don’t think many guys would do.”
  • “According to the statistics, 98 per cent of players were vaccinated and did everything they needed to do in order to come to Australia and perform and play,” he said.

As per an online poll conducted by the News Corp media organisation, 83 per cent of people support the government’s attempt to deport the tennis star.

  • “He should absolutely leave. He hasn’t done the proper thing and is being a little arrogant about it,” said Venus Virgin Tomarz, 45, a Melbourne resident.
  • “It’s political, to be honest. But, if what the media is reporting is accurate, and he didn’t arrive with the proper documentation, he should be treated the same as everyone else,” said Jacob Coluccio, a 25-year-old Melbourne resident.

The argument: The controversy has heightened global debate about vaccine choice and turned into a thorny topic.

  • While Morrison’s government has garnered support at home for its stern stance on border security, the poor processing of Djokovic’s visa has not gone unnoticed.
  • Djokovic’s case was hampered by an incorrect entrance declaration, which said that he had not travelled overseas in the two weeks leading up to his departure for Australia.
  • He had travelled between Spain and Serbia, in reality.
  • Djokovic, 34, blamed his agent for the blunder and said that he should not have given an interview and photo session for a French publication on Dec 18 while afflicted with COVID-19.
  • Senator Jacqui Lambie said it’s “time to put an end to this.”
  • “Why hasn’t the minister taken action to address this? If he’s going to do him in character because they think his submission was forged, then, you know, this is what we do when our kids get into mischief at school. They are sent back to their homes.”

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