The Australian Open is set to begin on January 17, but the No. 1 player in the world and nine-time Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic, apparently will not be participating. Djokovic is, rather famously, not vaccinated against COVID-19 and while the Australian government has issued exemptions for the country’s vaccine mandate to some players to allow them to play in the tournament, Djokovic ran into issues on Wednesday as his flight arrived in Melbourne.
Apparently, the visa that Djokovic and his team had applied for did not permit medical exemptions for the vaccine mandate, and as such, hours before the star landed in Australia, he was no longer arriving with the correct paperwork to be allowed entry into the country. While Tennis Australia officials pushed to get him cleared, the Victorian government rejected a request to sponsor his visa, meaning when he landed he was unable to actually enter the country.
Update on #AusOpen2022…
The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
— Jaala Pulford MP (@JaalaPulford) January 5, 2022
Greg Hunt, Australia’s health minister, confirms Djokovic has failed to provide ‘appropriate standards of proof’ to enter the country and that he will be sent home.
— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) January 5, 2022
Djokovic was held at the airport for hours, but it was ultimately decided that his visa would be canceled and he would be forced to leave Australia on Thursday, per The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has been told his visa has been rejected and that he will be flown out of Australia later on Thursday.
Djokovic’s lawyers are in the process of challenging the decision, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
As one would expect, this did not make Tennis Australia very happy and they voiced their frustration, telling the Age and Herald that other players had been allowed in under the exemption Djokovic had applied for and felt they were singling him out given the scrutiny and backlash that specifically came from his being offered an exemption to play.
“I don’t know how the feds will [address the fact that] several tennis players are already in the country with the same exemption granted to Novak,” the source said.
“This looks to us like the feds are responding to the media by letting some players in but not the World No. 1.”
Other players had been granted exemptions for having had COVID-19 in the past six months and that was believed to be the exemption Djokovic was seeking, but the visa he or his team had applied for apparently didn’t allow for that.
How the courts respond remains to be seen, but it is a very real possibility that Djokovic will have to sit out rather than trying to win a fourth straight Aussie Open title, all because he has refused the vaccine that billions of people have received worldwide.