Unvaccinated Tennis Star denied entry into Australia
COVID-19 Vaccine mandates in international sports: Unvaccinated Tennis Star denied entry into Australia despite the exemption.
To begin the new year, the Australian Open is the first major tennis tournament of the Grand Slam season. With four grand slams tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open) being played every calendar year, the Australian Open is the one that marks the start of the tennis season. Despite being the defending Australian Open champion and number one player in the world, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic will be unable to defend his title since Australia denied entry due to his COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease) vaccination status. Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against the virus, had a medical exemption that would have allowed him to play in the tournament.
Djokovic was also denied entry due to an issue with his visa, as the Australian Border Forces stated that the 20-time Grand Slam Champion did not provide the “appropriate evidence” needed to meet the government’s entry requirements. Australian Border Forces also said that “Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa canceled will be detained and removed from Australia.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that
“Mr.Djokovic’s visa has been canceled. He explained that, “rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.”
Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, Australia enforced strict rules regarding domestic and international travel. Before Djokovic’s visa was canceled, Australia held him in a guarded room for 12 hours, facing questioning from government officials about the evidence supporting his medical exemption, as well as the “validity” of his visa. Australian media reported that Djokovic’s team had applied for the wrong type of visa that involves a person with a medical exemption. Djokovic arrived at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport just before midnight local time on Wednesday. From there, Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, told a local Serbian outlet that his son was being held in a guard room and that “in front of the room [were] two policemen.”
Victoria state’s acting minister for sports, Jaala Pulford, said on Twitter that there would be no “support” for Djokovic’s visa after being asked by the federal government.
“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam. We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
Australian Open officials defended this decision, despite 26 total people involved in the tournament applying for the same exemption, with a “handful” of exemptions being accepted. The Victoria state government mandated that only fully vaccinated officials, players, staff, and fans can enter Melbourne Park when the grand slam event starts on January 17. Djokovic had and recovered from COVID-19 in 2020. He then tested positive for the virus after playing a series of exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia. Even though he already got COVID, Djokovic still refused to get vaccinated and claims that he supports “freedom of choice.”
In April 2021, Djokovic hoped that vaccine mandates would not come into effect for tennis players on tour. However, the nine-time Australian Open champions denial of vaccine prevents him from winning an all-time high 21st career grand slam title.
“Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”Djokovic now faces deportation from Australia, but he has filed an injunction to prevent such action.