The world’s number one ranked tennis player — Novak Djokovic — has been denied entry into Australia after his visa has been canceled. The BBC reports that Djokovic’s team “had not requested a visa that permits medical exemptions for being unvaccinated.”
Djokovic arrived in Australia on Wednesday, and after an 8-hour standoff with Australian officials, was told that he would not be allowed into the country on Thursday. Djokovic’s medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine — which was granted by the Victorian government Tuesday — was the reason for the standoff, with the announcement that he “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.”
The Victorian government is a state-level authority.
“The visa for Novak Djokovic has been cancelled,” Australian Minister for Health Greg Hunt said. “Obviously, that follows a review of the exemption which was provided by the Victorian government process. They were looking at the integrity and the evidence behind it.”
“It’s a matter to him whether he wishes to appeal that, but if a visa is cancelled, someone will have to leave the country,” Hunt continued.
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Djokovic’s lawyers will reportedly challenge the decision.
After months of speculation due to vaccination requirements at the tournament, Djokovic received a medical exemption on Tuesday in order to begin the defense of his 2021 Australian Open title.
“Novak Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia,” the tournament said in a statement.
“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the tournament continued. “One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.”
On Wednesday, he was delayed upon arrival in Australia, an issue with his visa application being the problem.
According to The Age — an Australian news publication — Djokovic was held up “due to concerns over evidence supporting his vaccine exemption, as well as a potentially erroneous visa application.”
As stated on The Age:
The 20-time grand slam winner, who was granted an exemption to play in this month’s Australian Open, was being quizzed by Australian Border Force officials in a room at Melbourne Airport until at least 5am.
A federal government source familiar with the episode said there were question marks about whether Djokovic had adequate documentation to prove the reason for his exemption. This evidence is required to be presented at the border by unvaccinated people.
The news of Djokovic’s medical exemption sparked outrage in Australia, a country that has seen severe COVID-19 lockdowns over the past year.
“While the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said. “If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travelers.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic will have to prove his medical exemption upon arrival in Australia.
“If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home,” Morrison said. “And so if medical exemptions had been provided by medical professionals and that’s been furnished to him as a proviso for him to get on that plane, well, that will have to stack up when he arrives in Australia.”
While the nine-time Australian Open champion has not publicly stated his vaccine status, he did test positive for COVID-19 in 2020.
Djokovic is coming off a season in which he won three of the four majors, including the 2021 tournament in Melbourne. And yet, it’s been unclear over the past several months whether he would be allowed to enter the 2022 Open because of his vaccination status.
The Australian Open requires all players to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a medical exemption. The requirement also applies to fans and staff attending the tournament.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.