File photo of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic after losing his match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals tournament at Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy. November 20, 2021. REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane / Archive
Por Courtney Walsh y John Mair
SYDNEY, Jan 6 (Reuters) – The world’s number one tennis player Novak Djokovic was unable to enter Australia on Thursday after he was initially granted a medical exemption so he could play the Australian Open without meeting the country’s requirements. about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The tennis star, who was stranded at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport overnight amid a political storm, received a letter from the Australian government telling him that his visa was denied and that he would be expelled from the country on Thursday. a source close to the tournament told Reuters.
Australian border forces later confirmed that his visa was revoked.
The Serbian tennis player, who is seeking to add his 21st grand slam crown at the Australian Open that begins on January 17, would file a court order to prevent him from being expelled, the source said. Meanwhile, Djokovic headed to a Melbourne hotel.
In a dramatic series of Melbourne overnight events, Djokovic landed at Tullamarine Airport around 11:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday, following a 14-hour flight from Dubai, but was taken to an isolation room under police guard when Australian officials said his visa did not allow medical exemptions.
The source told Reuters that the visa and paperwork that Djokovic had used to enter the country was the same as that of three other players who had already arrived.
The Australian government’s move threatened to provoke a diplomatic incident between Canberra and Belgrade.
“I just finished my phone conversation with Novak Djokovic,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic posted on Instagram. “I have told our Novak that all of Serbia is with him and that our organs do everything possible so that the harassment of the best tennis player in the world ends immediately.”
“In accordance with all the norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice. Novak is strong, as we all know.”
Vucic summoned the Australian ambassador to Belgrade and demanded that Djokovic be released immediately to play, Serbian media reported.
“Mr Djokovic’s visa has been canceled,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted on Thursday.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been instrumental in Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we remain vigilant.” .
The decision to grant Djokovic a medical exemption from vaccination so that he can play the Australian Open caused a strong backlash and a cross-accusation between the conservative Morrison government and the leftist Prime Minister of the state of Victoria, Dan Andrews.
Melbourne has suffered the longest lockdown in the world and an outbreak of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has sent case numbers reaching record highs.
With the Australian Open 11 days to go, the legal recourse of Djokovic, who has refused to reveal his vaccination status, could take the dispute to the Supreme Court.
At the center of Djokovic’s case is the fact that the 408 temporary activity visa with which he intended to enter Australia treats a person arriving with a valid medical exemption in the same way as one who is vaccinated, the source said. to Reuters.
Tennis Australia (TA) and government officials have previously stressed that Djokovic did not receive any preferential treatment to obtain medical exemption from a panel of health officials.
TA Executive Director Craig Tiley said the panel consisted of clinicians from the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and general practice, and that all exemptions met the conditions set by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization ( ATAGI).
The Australian government previously made a commitment to abide by the rules of the exemption process. However, when Djokovic arrived on an Emirates flight on Wednesday, he was detained by border officials.
Australian media reported that the Border Force alleged that it had applied for the wrong visa for a medical exemption.
(Edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)