Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Controversy

Who is he?

Novak Djokovic is a Serbian professional tennis player. He is currently ranked as world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals. He has won 20 grand slams till now.

What is the Story Behind him Being Deported?

Let’s have a look at this timeline to understand how the events unfolded.

November 29, 2021 

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt writes to Australian Open Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley stating that a Covid-19 infection alone in the past six months, without full vaccination does not meet the requirements for quarantine-free entry into the country. Around the second week of December, Tennis Australia sent a letter to players stating that a Covid-19 infection in the past six months, together with an accompanying letter from a doctor, would qualify as a valid medical exemption. 

December 14, 2021 

Novak attended a basketball game in Belgrade after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with Covid-19 

December 18, 2021 

Knowing that he is positive for Covid, Djokovic does an interview and photo shoot with the French newspaper L’Equipe. He acknowledges weeks later: “On reflection, this was an error of judgment.” 

Dec 22 , 2021 

Djokovic tests negative and a few days later he withdraws from the Serbian team for the ATP Cup without giving any reason.

January 4 , 2022 

Djokovic reveals he will compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Tennis Australia follows with a statement confirming Djokovic is on his way to the country with a medical exemption that has been “granted following a rigorous review process “ 

Neither Djokovic nor Tennis Australia reveals the basis for his exemption. Craig Tiley says a “handful” of exemptions had been granted out of 26 applications from players or others.

January 5, 2022 

Novak Djovick arrives at the Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, his entry is delayed because of a mistake with his visa application. 

January 6, 2022 

Djovick is detained for about eight hours at the airport upon arrival, the 20-time major winner is denied entry to the country and his visa is canceled. The Australian Border Force says Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. Health Minister Greg Hunt says the visa cancellation followed a review of Djokovic’s medical exemption which was expected to shield him from the strict COVID-19 vaccination regulations in place — by border officials who looked “at the integrity and the evidence behind it.” 

The tennis star is brought to a hotel used to house immigration detainees in Carlton, an inner-northern suburb of Melbourne, where he remains for four nights. Fans gather in protest outside the hotel. Djovick’s parents also join the protest 

January 10,2022 

Djokovic appeals the cancellation of his visa at a virtual court hearing on Monday, submitting an affidavit that says he is not vaccinated for COVID-19 and arguing he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month. Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months 

Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstates Djokovic’s visa, ruling the player was not given enough time to speak to his lawyers before the decision to deny him entry was made and noting Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels. Kelly also orders the government to release Djokovic from immigration detention. 

January 12, 2022 

A post on social media is shared while Djovick is in Rod Laver Arena holding his third practice session since being released from detention. In the statement, the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion acknowledges a mistake on his travel declaration for Australia and confessed to an “error of judgement” in taking part in an interview and photo shoot in Serbia last month after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Djokovic blames his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error ” He also sought to clarify what he called “continuing misinformation” about his movements after he became infected last month.

The 34-year-old remained in limbo before the year’s first tennis major as he still faced the prospect of deportation. Deportation could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a particularly daunting possibility for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles in the country. 

January 13, 2022 

After a delayed draw ceremony — the tournament official declines to comment to the media on why the start time is pushed back — it is revealed that Djokovic will face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the Australian Open, if he’s allowed to play. 

According to the 2022 Grand Slam Rule Book, if Djokovic is forced to pull out of the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev would move into his spot in the bracket. 

January 14, 2022 

Djokovic’s status remained uncertain after the Australian government for a second time revoked his visa. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial discretion to pull the visa. Djokovic and his lawyers had a meeting with immigration officials in Melbourne. 

January 16, 2022 

Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds. Djokovic loses appeal and is out of Australian Open. After this, Novak Djokovic arrived in Serbia after being deported from Australia. Supporters gathered at the airport in Belgrade, waving the national flag and chanting “we love Novak”.