No Special Treatment: Australia Cancels Novak Djokovic’s Visa

Novak Djokovic (photo: Fiona Hamilton / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

On Thursday, Australia barred Novak Djokovic from entering the country for the Australian Open after he failed to meet entry requirements and his visa was cancelled. If he was expecting a warm welcome as the World No. 1 and nine-time defending champion – like he might in normal, non-pandemic times – Djokovic didn’t get it from the Australian Border Force upon arriving at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport late Wednesday night.

“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia,” the Australian Border Force said in a statement Thursday morning.

The agency went on to say that the 34-year-old Djokovic “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.”

The 20-time major champion from Serbia, a vaccine skeptic who has never disclosed publicly if he has been vaccinated or not, received a medical exemption to compete in the year’s first major and, thus, avoiding the country’s strict vaccine requirements.

The Australian Open is scheduled to take place at Melbourne Park from Jan. 17-30.

Djokovic, one of the most physically-fit players on the ATP Tour, publicized his exemption on his social media platforms on Tuesday, then took off on a 14-hour flight from Dubai for Melbourne – and that set off a firestorm of criticism from fellow players, ordinary Australians and even the prime minister.

 

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After being queried by reporters earlier this week, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements.

“If he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.”

On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Morrison tweeted: “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.”

In a television interview, Greg Hunt, Australia’s minister for health, acknowledged that Djokovic “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia.”

Meanwhile, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic released a statement on Instagram regarding the termination of Djokovic’s visa.

“I just finished a phone conversation with Novak Djokovic. I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the harassment of the best tennis player in the world in the shortest possible period,” Vucic wrote in his post.

“In accordance with all norms of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for just and truth. By the way, Novak is strong, as we all know him.”

According to reports, Djokovic was taken to an immigration detention hotel in Carlton that is used to house asylum seekers and is controlled by immigration officials around 10 a.m. Melbourne time Thursday morning after being detained at the airport for about eight hours. He now awaits deportation.

Later, Prime Minister Morrison was quoted by abc.net.au as saying it was Djokovic’s responsibility to ensure he had the correct paperwork in place when he arrived in Australia.

“It is for the traveler to be able to assert and back up their ability to come into the country, consistent with our laws,” he said.

“They can take advice, but it is up to them at the end of the day, and if they do not comply with the rules, then the Australian Border Force will do their job and they have done their job.”

For now, it appears that the drama with Djokovic’s visa has derailed his pursuit of a 10th Australian Open singles title and a record 21st major title. By all indications, the Djokovic affair is far from being over.

Djokovic’s lawyers are challenging the visa ruling. A court hearing on the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa has been adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday.

Further reading about Djokovic

Swiatek dominates Fernandez in battle of Top 25 stars

Iga Swiatek advanced to the Adelaide International 1 quarterfinals with a dominating 6-1, 6-2 victory over Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in a battle of Top 25 stars Thursday afternoon.

The World No. 9 from Poland, who is the defending champion, ran her winning streak to seven matches at Memorial Drive with her 74-minute triumph over the 24th-ranked Fernandez, last year’s US Open finalist.

“I was in the mood, and that was great because I was pretty stressed since … I was playing against a younger girl, which is pretty new for me,” Swiatek said during an on-court interview after her victory. “She’s pretty talented and she’s a Grand Slam finalist, so I knew it was going to be tricky.”

Fernandez reached the second round after defeating Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-3, 6-4, on Monday, while Swiatek beat Daria Saville of Australia in her opening-round match. It was the first time the 19-year-old Fernandez had faced Swiatek, 20, in their budding careers.

“I felt really confident,” added Swiatek, “and I’m pretty happy that I could finish it really quickly and I didn’t let go of focus.”

Swiatek won 84 percent (27 of 32) of her first-serve points and backed it on her return, winning over half of Fernandez’s second-serve points. She outpointed Fernandez 66-37 and won on her fourth match-point opportunity. She will face No. 27 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who defeated 263rd-ranked Australian wild card Priscilla Hon, 6-3, 7-5, in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Cilic achieves 550th career tour-level triumph

With his opening win at the ATP 250 Adelaide International 1 on Wednesday, World No. 30 Marin Cilic of Croatia became the 40th man in the Open Era to reach 550 career tour-level wins.

The No. 3 seed Cilic earned his 550th career win with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory over No. 89 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil.

Noteworthy …

• No. 3 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia the highest-remaining seed in the WTA 250 Melbourne Summer Set 2 at Melbourne Park. The No. 26 Kasatkina reached the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3 win over No. 56 Madison Keys of the United States on Thursday.

Previously, No. 1 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States was upset by Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in the first round and No. 2 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium withdrew with a thigh injury and was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Wang Xinyu of China.

• Lost in the shuffle with six tournaments going on simultaneously throughout Australia between three cities – Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney – this week, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios pulled out of this week’s ATP 250 Melbourne Summer Set event. “I have been feeling run down and unwell for four days,” he expressed via social media. “I have had several Covid tests over the last few days, which all came back negative.

“I don’t feel 100 percent so I need to take this week to be ready for Sydney next week. I was really looking forward to experiencing the best fans in the world here at home! I can’t’ wait to get back out there and see you all.”

The World No. 93 Kyrgios has a wild card entry into next week’s Sydney Tennis Classic.

What they’re podcasting

By the numbers

With her seventh consecutive victory in Adelaide dating back to the first round of the 2021 tournament, which she won, defending Adelaide International champion Iga Swiatek has won 14 straight sets. Swiatek’s victory over Leylah Fernandez on Thursday also improved her pro level win-loss record against left-handers to 14-3. She’s won her last six matches against lefties dating back to Rome 2020, when she lost to Arantxa Rus.

“Quotable …”

“I think it was all in a good progression. Work to do, without a doubt, but very happy with the level that we started the year with.”

– World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, following her come-from-behind 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over No. 22 Coco Gauff of the United States, in her 2022 debut and first match since last year’s US Open.

What they’re sharing on social media

Camila Osorio / I’m feeling very good and hope to return to the court soon