By Allison Markman
New York City, New York
Tennis player Novak Djokovic may be banned from Australia for three years after many failed attempts to have his visa approved. The Australian Open, the first major tennis tournament in 2022, allowed Djokovic to play despite his vaccination status, as he received a medical exemption from Tennis Australia for the tournament. However, the Australian government denied Djokovic entry into the country due to public health regulations. After ten days in Australia, in which he fought to stay and compete in the Australian Open, Djokovic was deported and returned to his home country of Serbia.
Although Djokovic won his original legal battle after his visa cancellation on January 5th, this measure did not last. During his final legal challenge, a three-judge panel upheld the reversal of his visa, forcing him to leave the country despite multiple appeals.
The battle over his ability to enter the country began when, in his declaration to enter Australia, Djokovic claimed that he had not traveled fourteen days before entering the country. This statement was found untrue and he later admitted to traveling between Serbia and Spain in the two weeks preceding the Australian Open.
Prior to his legal battle to enter the country, Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 in December. He was seen repeatedly violating a quarantine, meeting with both members of the press and attending a charity event where he was maskless and interacting with young children.
Though he posted an apology on social media for breaking quarantine and for writing inaccurate information on the form, the government still refused to let the player enter the country.
In a statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison explained the grounds for his deportation, claiming that it was in the public interest to do so. “It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer,” he said.
There’s speculation regarding whether the challenges were due to the government's attempt to make Djokovic a symbol, conveying that they will not allow celebrities to break rules solely because of their status.
Australia’s decision boils down to responsibility. Though Djokovic is one of the most successful tennis stars and was entering the country for a tournament, many Australians believe that players should not be allowed to subvert the rules of the country when it is beneficial to them.
However, Serbia faces low vaccination rates, with only 60% of the adult population being vaccinated. Many fans in Djokovic’s home country are standing behind his decision.
Australian tennis player Nick Kyriois expressed his support for Djokovic on Twitter, saying “The mistreatment of people in Melbourne has been atrocious in the last two years. I understand the anger towards him for not being vaccinated and getting a medical exemption, but if you look at it on face value, he’s got his paperwork.”
Many fans of the sport are disappointed that they will be unable to watch one of the greats this Australian Open. Additionally, Djokovic may be banned from the French Open as well, as the country recently put a law in place that requires vaccines to enter public places, including restaurants and sports venues.
In March, Djokovic was also denied entrance to the United States forcing him to withdraw from both the Indian Wells and Miami Open tournaments.