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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Djokovic in Australian Open draw as visa decisions loom

  • Djokovic bids for record 21st major title
  • The top seeds trained at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday
  • Djokovic admits error in entry form, outing while COVID positive
  • Australia is considering canceling its visa again

MELBOURNE, Jan 13 () – Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was included in the official Australian Open draw on Thursday, though uncertainty remained over whether the government would revoke the top-seeded visa for a second time.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is exercising his discretionary power to revoke Djokovic’s visa over concerns about the star’s medical exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The 34-year-old defending champion, who was practicing at the Rod Laver Arena on Thursday, drew on unseeded teammate Serb Miomir Kekmanovic for his opening round match to be played on Monday or Tuesday.

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Organizer Tennis Australia postponed the official draw by more than an hour without assigning any reason.

Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, sparked widespread anger in Australia last week when he announced he was heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open, which granted visitors a medical exemption from vaccination requirements against COVID-19.

Upon his arrival, Australian Border Force officers decided that his exemption was invalid and he was held with asylum seekers in an immigration detention hotel for several days.

A court on Monday allowed him to stay on the grounds that the way officials handled his interview in the middle of the night in a seven-hour process was “unfair”.

The government, which had garnered support at home for its tough stance on border security before and during the pandemic, must now decide whether to let Djokovic stay and bid for a record 21st major title.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on Djokovic’s visa on Thursday.

mistakes were made

Djokovic’s reason was not helped by a mistake in his admission announcement, which read in a box that he had not traveled abroad in the two weeks before heading to Australia.

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Actually, he went to Spain from Serbia.

Djokovic, 34, blamed his agent for the error and admitted he should have also rescheduled an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper on 18 December while he was infected with COVID-19.

Fans, including several Serbian Australians, raged when he was taken into custody. Anti-vaxxers have hailed him as a hero and his family portrays him as a champion of individual rights.

But when Djokovic walks off the court, he may face hostility from the crowd. read more

The saga has sparked widespread anger among Australians, who have a 90% vaccination rate among adults after ending some of the world’s longest lockdowns aimed at curbing the pandemic.

Crowds in the Open’s main arenas will be kept at 50% capacity and masks will be mandatory for all spectators under updated COVID-19 restrictions announced on Thursday as officials report a surge in cases caused by the Omicron version. read more

“I don’t like his arrogance,” Melbourne resident Tehan Iseman said on Wednesday. “It looks like he’s telling some fibers too. So I guess he should probably go back.”

There can also be outrage in the dressing room, where everyone except three of the top 100 men are vaccinated.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova told Australian television that Djokovic should “suck it up” and return home.

“The bottom line is, sometimes your personal beliefs have to be changed for the greater good, for the people around you, for your teammates,” she told the Sevens Sunrise program. “You have two choices, get vaccinated or just don’t go to play.”

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Reporting by Sonali Paul and Ian Ransom in Melbourne, John Maier in Sydney; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Richard Pullin, Editing by Robert Birsey

Our Standards: Thomson Trust Principles.


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