Novak Djokovic, who initially had his visa refused on Wednesday over his COVID-19 vaccination exemption, has not yet been deported from Australia. As of Thursday morning, the tennis star, in search of his 10th Australian Open singles championship, is currently staying in a hotel until the Australian government makes a decision regarding his visa on Monday.
Djokovic was denied entry into Australia when he arrived in Melbourne for the tournament. Djokovic was granted a medical exemption from tournament organizers to compete in the event, even though he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. All players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel in order to take part in the event.
The tennis star is challenging the government’s decision and applied for a judicial review. If the government’s original ruling is upheld, Djokovic will be deported from the country and unable to compete at the Australian Open later this month.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly stated that there was a delay in receiving the application for a review of Djokovic’s visa. In addition, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrew’s lawyer believes that Djokovic shouldn’t be deported until Monday.
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic is getting involved in Djokovic’s visa situation.
“I’ve just finished my telephone conversation with Novak Djokovic,” Vucic posted on Instagram Wednesday. “I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately.
“In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice. Novak is strong, as we all know.”
Djokovic receiving an exemption to play in the tournament had caused outrage throughout the country, and the situation came to a head on Wednesday. Prior to the decision to cancel his visa, Djokovic was being held in a room with police after landing in Melbourne, according to his father Srdijan Djokovic.
“Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,” Srdjan Djokovic told the B92 internet portal. “In front of the room are two policemen.”
Srdijan Djokovic added later on Wednesday that he believes his son is being held “captive” and that “if they don’t release him in the next half an hour, we will fight them on the street.”
According to Australian Open organizers, Djokovic didn’t benefit from any “special favor” after receiving a medical exemption in order to participate in the Grand Slam tournament. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley stated that 26 unvaccinated players applied for the medical exemption and that only a “handful” were granted.
“We made it extra difficult for anyone applying for an application to ensure it was the right process and to make sure the medical experts deal with it independently,” Tiley said. “There has been no special favor or special opportunity granted to Novak Djokovic or any tennis player. There’s been a process that goes above and beyond the normal process for everyone.”
Tiley also revealed that the reasoning for Djokovic receiving the exemption will remain private because “the personal information of any applicant is redacted to ensure the independence of the process.”
Earlier in January, the Victorian government released a statement regarding the tournament’s exemption policy and said that it has a “two-stage independent process” in order to verify if any player has “a genuine medical condition that meets the criteria for an exemption.” Clearly, they decided that Djokovic does.
Djokovic is slated to challenge for his 21st Grand Slam title and is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam singles titles in men’s history. Nadal will be participating in the Australian Open after recently testing positive for COVID-19. Federer won’t be taking part in the event as he is recovering from knee surgery.