Novak Djokovic’s defense of the Australian Open title he won last year failed. The Serbian player, world No. 1 and the tournament’s main claim, has had his entry visa revoked after spending several hours in a room at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport since midnight Wednesday (local time). , after arriving on an Emirates flight from Dubai. The tennis player was interrogated, guarded by two police officers and unable to communicate with the outside world, as his mobile phone was taken from him. His detention was in response to a problem with his entry visa to the country, specifically due to an anomaly in his medical record. Knowle, despite being vaccinated against covid-19, was one of 26 people who applied to Tennis Australia for an exemption from the Open without being vaccinated. In his case, he claimed to have had the disease for the past six months. And got permission. However, in addition to a valid visa, when entering the country, he also had to present documents on exemption from medical care. According to the border guards, “he did not provide sufficient evidence.”
Tullamarine airport authorities contacted the Victorian government when they learned that the tennis team had applied for a visa that does not grant a medical exemption due to a lack of vaccinations.. Nikola Selaknovic, Serbia’s foreign minister, asked the Balkan country’s ambassador in Canberra, Australia’s capital, to arrange for Djokovic’s immediate release and facilitate his entry into the country. However, the result was the opposite. Djokovic was ordered to leave the country, although his lawyers appealed the decision before a final decision was made.
Controversy over the player’s arrival hours earlier led to questioning by the Australian government. Reproaches against the authorities followed one after another. Many believe that the number one in world tennis has been given favorable treatment, facilitating release without a vaccination. The Australian Tennis Federation on Tuesday released a statement saying Djokovic has received a medical exemption that will allow him to play at the Australian Open from January 17 to 30. This was explained a few hours earlier by a Serbian player who did not state the reason on which his request was based. Reasons for medical exclusion include allergic reactions or serious side effects after the first dose, and recent heart disease.
To expedite procedures, Tennis Australia has set up its own division to review all applications received, which must eventually be approved by the Victorian Department of Health. The system does not in any way disclose the identity, age or origin of the interested party. “Novak will not come to compete in Australia because he is the biggest star in the world of tennis. He is coming because, thanks to our checks, he was able to prove that he was entitled to a safe conduct, like anyone else who wants to come to this country, ”Jaala Pulford, Victorian sports minister, said on Wednesday. .
The controversy unleashed by the treatment provided to Djokovic, who declared his opposition to vaccines in April 2020 and still does not explain whether he was vaccinated, reached Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Morrison was asked hours before the player’s arrival if he supported the decision to grant him a waiver. “I believe that anyone who wants to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,” the prime minister said after meeting with officials to learn how to deal with the country’s record Covid infection rate. Morrison warned: “We look forward to the evidence you provide, and if it is not enough, you will not be treated differently than anyone else and you will go home on the next plane. Therefore, there should be no special rules for him. Not at all.”
Australian Home Secretary Karen Andrews said in a statement released earlier this morning: “While the Victorian (Regional) Government and Tennis Australia may allow unvaccinated players to compete in the Australian Open, it will be the Government that will enforce our requirements at the border. ”
Also hours before Djokovic’s arrival, Craig Tiley, director of the Australian Open, explained that of the 3,500 professional tennis players who have visited Australia in recent months, 26 players or their support staff have requested a medical exemption from the vaccine. , but this was granted to only a few. “If they didn’t comply with the rules, and there were a lot of them, they were rejected,” Tiley said.
The hype around the announcement of Djokovic’s release has caused great discomfort in Australia, especially in Melbourne, the city that accumulates the most days in strict lockdown during the pandemic (262 days), and in the rest of this country, which has been subject to stringent measures. to stop the pandemic.
“All Serbia is with you”
Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia, assured that the country will fight to protect Djokovic. Vučić believes that the Serbian tennis player is being “harassed”. Shortly before Australia announced that the world number one tennis player was denied a visa, Vucic explained: “I just finished a phone call with Novak. I told him that all of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the persecution of the best tennis player in the world as soon as possible. In accordance with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and truth.” The Belgrade player was held incommunicado in a room at Melbourne Airport for several hours. Soon after, he was able to speak on the phone with the president of his country.
Srdjan Djokovic, Novak’s father, called the situation “captivity” during his son’s interrogation by Australian customs officers. And he said: “This is a struggle for the liberal world, this is a struggle not only for Novak, but a struggle for the whole world. If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we’ll meet outside. It’s a fight for everyone.”
Serbian athletes and famous people sent messages of support to Djokovic via social media. “Everything is a temptation in this democratic world of justice and multiculturalism, where only power exists. I support my brother,” wrote the popular actor Andrija Milosevic. “You will win this match. We are all with you,” singer Sasha Kovacevic predicted.
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