Tennis player Novak Djokovic, who was granted a medical waiver on Tuesday by the Australian federal state in order to play the Australian Open, is stranded at Melbourne airport on Wednesday due to a visa problem. According to local press, the Serb would not have filled in the correct form for the type of visa he requested.
Novak Djokovic believed he had done the hard part by getting a medical waiver to compete in the Australian Open, but the world No.1 was stranded at Melbourne airport on Wednesday due to a visa issue. All smiles to announce his departure for Melbourne on his Instagram account Tuesday, Djokovic was disillusioned upon his arrival in Australia. According to the Australian press, the nine-time winner of the Australian Open would not have completed the correct form to apply for a visa and the visa he requested does not authorize a medical exemption.
A request rebutted by the government of the State of Victoria
The federal customs service contacted the government of the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, when the Djokovic camp discovered its error, explains the daily The Age. But this request was rebutted, says Jaala Pulford, a minister of the state of Victoria.
“The federal government has asked us if we support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not approve this request (…) We have always been clear on two points: the study of the applications visa is a prerogative of the federal government and medical exemptions a prerogative of doctors, “she explained on Twitter.
The medical exemption criticized by the political class of the country
Djokovic, silent on his vaccination status, was already in the crosshairs of the Australian political class since he announced that he had obtained a medical exemption to participate in the Australian Open (January 17-30). “We are waiting for his presentation and for him to provide us with evidence to support” this waiver, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference. “If this evidence is insufficient, then he will not be treated any differently from anyone else, and he will return home by the first plane. There will be no special rules for Novak Djokovic. Not the least,” insisted the Prime Minister.
“It would certainly be useful if Novak explained the conditions under which he requested and obtained an exemption,” Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley, also director of the first Grand Slam of the year of the year, also told reporters on Wednesday. “I encourage him to talk to the community about this … We have been going through a very difficult time over the past two years and I would appreciate some responses to that,” he added.
No special treatment, assures Australian tennis boss
The Australian tennis boss said, however, that the world No. 1 had received no preferential treatment to obtain this exemption, during a process supervised by the Australian authorities and those of the State of Victoria. A total of 26 players or members of their staff, out of the 3,000 expected in Australia, have requested an exemption and only a few of them have obtained it, he revealed. According to Mr. Tiley, the two commissions responsible for examining exemption requests do so without knowing the identity of the applicants.
Already winner of 20 Grand Slams, like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic is aiming for a record 21st title in Melbourne. The Australian Open, which begins on January 17, is his favorite tournament: it is in Melbourne that the Serbian won his first Grand Slam (2008), and no one has won there as much as him (nine victories ).
Djokovic opposes compulsory vaccination
For months, “Nole” had cast doubt on his participation in the first Grand Slam of the year, due to the obligation for players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter Australia. The world No. 1 spoke in April 2020 against compulsory vaccination, then considered to allow the resumption of tournaments. “Personally, I am not for vaccines. I would not like someone forcing me to be vaccinated to travel,” he said at the time.
He finally announced Tuesday that he had obtained a medical exemption allowing him to make the trip to Australia. The country’s regulations provide for this type of exemption in five specific cases (having contracted Covid-19 in the previous six months, serious medical contraindication …) but the federation, invoking medical confidentiality, refused to say which one is ‘applied to Djokovic.
This decision sparked an uproar in Australia, where the measures put in place to fight Covid-19 have been particularly strict since the start of the pandemic. It is a “spit in the face of any inhabitant of the State of Victoria and any Australian”, wrote the former tennis player Sam Groth, who became a television commentator, in a column published by the daily Herald sun from Melbourne.