Novak Djokovic’s vaccine exemption entry into Australia delayed due to visa issues


Serbia’s Novak Djokovic applauds the crowd after losing to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during their 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 12, 2021.
Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

Novak Djokovic’s entry into Australia on a vaccine exemption has been delayed due to issues with the visa he and his team submitted.

Having landed in Melbourne, the 20-time grand slam winner was reportedly attempting to enter the country on a visa that does not permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated, and when Border Force contacted government officials in Victoria to sponsor the visa, they refused to do so.

The Serbian arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday evening local time, but faced trouble at the border, with Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirming that the state government was not supporting his visa application to compete in the Australian Open.

She tweeted: “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.

“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.”

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On Tuesday, the 34-year-old Serb revealed he had an “exemption permission” to travel and play at the Australian Open without a Covid-19 vaccination.

Djokovic has never revealed whether he is vaccinated against Covid-19, but has criticised mandates ruling that players must be double-jabbed.

The response to Tuesday’s exemption confirmation was heavily negative, both in Australia and around the world, and eventually saw Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirm that Djokovic would be “on the next plane home” if his evidence for a Covid-19 vaccination exemption to play at the Australian Open is not satisfactory.

“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all, none whatsoever,” PM Morrison said.

“He has to because if he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers.”

Rules in Victoria, where the Australian Open will begin on January 17, stated that players must be double-vaccinated against Covid-19.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said earlier it would be “helpful” for Djokovic to clarify his situation on what exempts him from vaccination.

“We completely understand and empathise that some would have been upset by the fact that Novak Djokovic has come in because of his statements around vaccination in the past couple of years,” Tiley told reporters.

“We would love…Novak to talk about it and help us with it, but ultimately it’s going to be up to him.

“We aren’t in a position, even legally, to disclose other people’s medical information.”

Meanwhile, PM Morrison’s comments were echoed by a statement from Australia’s minister for home affairs Karen Andrews.

“Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements,” her statement read.

“No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”

Tiley has revealed 26 unvaccinated players applied for exemption, with Djokovic among only a “handful” given the green light under guidelines set by federal regulators.

Criteria listed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group as permissible reasons for a medical exemption range from acute major medical conditions to any serious adverse event attributed to a previous dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

A possible explanation is that Djokovic has contracted coronavirus for a second time at some point in the past six months, having previously caught it during his much-criticised Adria Tour event in Belgrade in 2020.

That would negate the need for vaccination, according to rules published last year by one of two independent medical panels involved in the decision.

The build-up to the season’s first grand slam has been dominated by whether Djokovic would be involved.

Speculation was heightened after he pulled out of the Serbia team competing at the ATP Cup in Sydney without explanation.

The tournament provides Djokovic with another chance to move clear of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with the three having each won 20 grand slam titles.

He was challenging for the calendar year grand slam in 2021 but fell short in the US Open final by losing to Daniil Medvedev, the man he beat in last year’s Australian Open final.

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