Expelled from Australia after a legal battle over his vaccination status, world tennis number one Novak Djokovic landed in Dubai on Monday shortly after the Australian Open kicked off in Melbourne. He had left Melbourne with his coaches on Sunday evening, his final destination remaining unknown.
Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic, expelled from Australia after a legal battle over his vaccination status, landed in Dubai on Monday shortly after the Australian Open kicked off in Melbourne. dreamed of winning for the tenth time. The 34-year-old Serb disembarked from the plane, masked and carrying two bags, after landing at Dubai airport at 5:32 a.m. local time, noted an AFP journalist present on board the same plane. He had left Melbourne with his coaches on Sunday evening, his final destination remaining unknown.
An inglorious departure
This inglorious departure, as he aspired to a 10th Australian Open title and a record 21st Grand Slam title, is the epilogue of an eleven-day soap opera that mixes politics and diplomacy against a backdrop of Djokovic’s opposition to the anti-Covid vaccination. Novak Djokovic was due to headline the opening day of the Australian Open on Monday, but the Serbian, unvaccinated, will not defend his title.
Twice in the past eleven days, the Australian government has canceled Djokovic’s visa and sent him to an immigration detention center, saying the star’s presence could stoke anti-vaccine sentiment, as the variant Omicron is spreading in the country. And twice, “Djoko” challenged this decision in court, winning a first round but losing the second, decisive, on Sunday. Three judges of the Federal Court of Australia sealed his fate by rejecting his appeal against the cancellation of his visa and his expulsion from the country.
“I am extremely disappointed,” Djokovic reacted in a statement on Sunday. “I will now take time to rest and recover,” said the player, whose career, at least in Australia, could suffer heavily from this setback, since a visa cancellation comes with a three-year ban. of Australian territory. The Australian government welcomed its legal victory on Sunday, in the midst of an election campaign in a country whose inhabitants have endured for almost two years some of the strictest anti-Covid restrictions in the world.
“This decision to cancel has been taken for reasons of health, safety and good order, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” said Tory Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “I welcome this decision which keeps our borders strong and Australians safe,” he added.
In Serbia, where “Nole” is considered a national hero, the expulsion has caused outrage. “They humiliated themselves, Djokovic can come back to his country with his head held high and look everyone straight in the eye,” President Aleksandar Vucic said of Australia’s leaders. “Despite this scandalous decision, we believe that Novak emerged victorious again,” added the Serbian Olympic Committee.
“A series of deeply regrettable events”
For the ATP, which manages the men’s professional circuit, the Australian court’s decision “puts an end to a series of deeply regrettable events”. “I don’t like that he finds himself in this situation and I don’t like the fact that he has been placed in detention”, regretted for his part the British tennis player Andy Murray, while Miomir Kecmanovic, the player Serb that Djokovic was to face on Monday, hopes “to avenge the best representative (of Serbia) who was prevented from being here”.
Djokovic’s Australian fiasco makes at least one happy, the Italian Salvatore Caruso (150th in the world) who, taking advantage of his “lucky loser” status (eliminated in qualifying but drafted thanks to this package), will replace him in the table of the Australian Open and will play Monday evening in his place.