Novak Djokovic may not make it to the 2022 Australian Open due to his vaccination status, despite receiving a medical exemption to play in the tournament.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner flew into Melbourne on Wednesday and was detained by border agents at the airport. “Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,” Djokovic’s father reported. “In front of the room are two policemen.”
The world’s No. 1 tennis player’s entry into the country has been held up due to a visa snafu. He was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open by the Victoria state government, but the federal government has the final say in the matter.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said that Djokovic “must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons” to get into the country. “If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and will be on the next plane home – there should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic,” he continued.
Djokovic was vocal in his opposition to mandatory vaccination last year. “I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel … But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision,” he said.
He withdrew from representing Serbia at the ATP Cup in Sydney, which began last weekend, but was allowed to participate in the Open after applying for “a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”
The Victoria State Government had previously mandated that all players, officials, and fans be fully vaccinated to enter the tournament. 26 people applied for medically exempt status, and along with Djokovic only a “handful” were approved.
After a tough year of rigorous lockdowns that the country has finally just emerged from, the state’s minister of sports acknowledged that locals will view Djokovic’s participation as “a disappointing outcome.”
One Twitter user called it “a slap in the face” to the country. “Australians weren’t even allowed to come home from overseas but apparently if you’re rich and famous, the rules don’t apply.”
Another said “Djokovic getting a vaccine exemption is nothing short of a kick in the guts.”
“Whoever knocks Djokovic out of the #AusOpen may never need to buy a beer In Australia ever again,” a sports commentator pointed out.