Let me start by saying, no one comes out of this looking good.
Novak Djokovic headed to Australia for the first Grand Slam of the year. The Serbian posted on his social media that he was heading down under to try and defend his title.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
This post started a chain of events. Frankly, it’s got very very messy.
Tennis Australia and two independent medical panels looked over applications for medical exemptions. This was to play the event. Australia has very strict entry conditions, especially if you want quarantine free restrictions. Only a handful of exemptions were granted. Previous Covid infection was not a valid entry exemption to get into the country. Tennis Australia granted the exemption to play.
Medical history is private and always should be.
When the World #1 landed the drama started. Border Force stopped Djokovic at immigration.
Border Force quizzed Djokovic for hours. The outcome was that the Border Force were not happy with the exemption. The Serb had not satisfied them that he had enough evidence to prove he should have entry. After around six hours in immigration the World #1 found himself in a new situation. His visa was cancelled.
Djokovic was detained in an “immigration hotel.” Australia holds other refugees there. Many have been in the hotel for years. Australia needs to deal with this but that is a totally separate issue. Djokovic contacted his lawyers. Proceedings started to overturn the deportation order. During this period, the Serbian was free to leave Australia at any point.
The World #1 needed to spend the weekend in the immigration hotel. Djokovic was not allowed out for practice or anything.
The Court Case
Djokovic’s lawyers placed a 35-page document to the court. The Australian government rebuttal was shorter. After pondering submissions, the judge ruled in favor of Djokovic. Border Force had not given the World #1 enough time before cancelling the visa.
Nothing about the actual application, if there was a valid exemption, etc. was in the ruling. Just that in the time allowed by Border Force there was nothing more he could have done.
Djokovic was immediately released from detention. The Serbian went to hit the tennis courts. This was why he was here. This was why he had been granted to medical exemption.
Questions to answer
This is where it starts to get messier. Australian courts appear to be public, at least for things like this. Documents submitted by both sides were widely visible online. Including the transcript with Border Force.
Djokovic is unvaccinated against Covid. That is his right. As stated before, Australia require full vaccination or valid medical exemption as to why unvaccinated for all visitors.
In the sworn affidavit to the court, Djokovic confirmed that he tested positive for COVID on 16th December. He then tested negative later in December. However, Djokovic was not self isolating whilst positive. The World #1 presented trophies at an event on the 17th for children. The Serbian also met and accepted a special stamp made in his honor.
On December 18th Djokovic conducted an interview with L’Equippe. All of these whilst he was positive, but no symptoms.
Tennis Australia and Craig Tilley also have questions to answer. According to their original deadline for applying for exemptions the Serbian missed this. Was it extended specifically for Djokovic? Questions need answering. Tennis Australia also need to answer this. Why did they tell players that recent recovery from COVID was an exemption. Letters came to light showing authorities stated it was not.
Djokovic and at least two others used the same exemption. The others have left Australia.
The World #1 issued a statement in a bid to calm the situation.
View this post on Instagram
The Serbian is apologizing for the lapse of judgement for the interview. He regrets that he went ahead with it whilst positive. Djokovic claims he was unware of the result of the test until after the kids’ event.
It is currently not looking good for the World number 1. Djokovic has admitted to breaking Serbian COVID rules which could land the World #1 in hot water at home.
Djokovic could still be deported from Australia. The judge ruled that he wasn’t given enough time to produce more documents. Moving on to the immigration document. A box was ticked incorrectly. The form signed by Djokovic was not completed by him. This is reason alone for a country to deport.
Regardless of who completed the form, the traveller is responsible to check and sign the declaration. Couple this with the Australian COVID stance and Djokovic could find himself on a plane tomorrow.
The whole situation is a big mess. Tennis Australia, Novak Djokovic, and the Australian Border Force all do not come out of this in a good light.
Will Djokovic be deported? The decision is expected soon. Either way, though, the world deserved better than what got us to this point, from all involved.
Main Photo from Getty.