Novak Djokovic and his journey to compete in the Australian Open has become a story of visas, vaccinations, and vacuity.
Arriving in Melbourne yesterday, Djokovic and his team attempted to enter the country in preparation for the tournament but were unable to do so as a result of his visa being cancelled. Some reports have said that this was due to failure to ‘provide appropriate evidence’, whereas others have said the wrong type of visa was applied for.
Anyone who has taken the time to watch Border Security: Australia’s Front Line knows how rigorous and meticulous Australian border staff can be. If there was a lack of appropriate evidence provided by Djokovic, then his hopes of being granted entry would be non-existent, like anyone else.
Likewise, any tennis fans will know of Djokovic’s skepticism surrounding the vaccinations as a means of tackling COVID-19, being unvaccinated himself.
With the rise of the omicron variant, it is in everyone’s interests to make events, such as the Australian Open, as safe as possible. With this in mind, protocol was set up to require both players and spectators to be fully vaccinated. Only in the most extreme of circumstances would medical exemptions be granted.
According to reports, Chief Executive Officer of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley said that Djokovic had been granted said medical exemption. While being unvaccinated is a personal choice for him and many others, it has caused furor amongst tennis players, supporters, and Australians in particular, who have had to endure multiple lockdowns, unable to travel, and see loved ones.
The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison also reinforced the point made about a lack of appropriate evidence being provided by Djokovic and said: “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.” However, some in Australia are viewing Morrison’s words criticising Djokovic as too little too late with the tennis star being hung out to dry to make it appear as if Morrison has taken the best path in tackling covid-19 and its many variants.
Given that the UK has returned to the stage two guidance over the festive period, is it possible that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives may opt for people to prove they are vaccinated in order to be allowed into the country and participate in mass events such as the Women’s Euro 2022 competition in the summer? It may be one way to break the cycle of lockdown and lockdown-lite.
Regarding Djokovic and the visa-vaccination battle, main tennis rival Rafael Nadal said: “If he wanted he would be playing here in Australia without a problem. He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences. In some way I feel sorry for him, but he knew the conditions.”
Currently in men’s tennis, there is a three-way tie for the number of grand slams won between Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. Due to recovering from knee surgery, Federer won’t be participating in the Australian Open, meaning it would likely have been a battle between the current World Number 1 and former five-time World Number 1.
However, with the visa decision looming until Monday’s court hearing as requested by Djokovic’s lawyers, the defending Australian Open Champion may have to fly back home, unable to compete for the title, leaving just Rafael Nadal in contention for grand slam number 21.