The Serbian is also likely to receive a three-year ban from entering the country.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me. I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” said world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, after a Federal Court in Australia turned down his plea against Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa. The Serbian said he would respect the decision and co-operate with authorities, and will now be deported back from Down Under.
The decision by the Federal Court will not just take away Djokovic’s chance of defending his Australian Open title, but also the opportunity to win a 21st Grand Slam and create history with it. Currently, he stands tied at the top on 20 slams with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both greats of the game. The entire saga has left a bad taste for tennis fans around the world, divided in favour or against the 34-year-old.
Timeline of the saga
On December 5, Djokovic arrived in Australia, not before creating a massive uproar on social media. He posted a picture before leaving. “I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission,” wrote the defending and nine-time Australian Open champion. When asked about his vaccination status by an officer of the Department of Home Affairs, Novak Djokovic said, “I am not vaccinated.”
The certificate for exemption, given to Djokovic, was provided by an independent expert medical review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia. The decision taken by the expert medical review was then endorsed by the independent medical exemption review panel of the Victorian state government, and not Australia’s Federal government.
In the same interview, the tennis star is informed by the official that the Australian Federal government believes ‘unvaccinated persons create a greater health risk of contracting COVID-19 virus and spreading it to others, either of which will further burden the country’s health system.’ This interview ensued overnight, well into the early hours of January 6.
A day later, he was given permission to isolate himself in a government isolation hotel for the next 72 hours. This is when a case was filed in a lower court, which ruled in favour of the world No. 1 on January 10. The court said, ‘It would be unreasonable to deport him at this time.’ Mr. Hawke also made a statement that very day that he would use his official powers to deport Djokovic.
Four days later, Hawke does as he stated. He cancelled the 20-time Slam champion’s visa, stating that the player poses a risk to the country as it continues to fight a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections. According to worldometers, the country currently has over 12 lakh active cases, one of the highest since the pandemic hit the world in early 2020.
Djokovic filed his plea in the Federal Court, which was turned down on Sunday.
Will this hurt Djokovic’s image as one of the greatest ever?
To answer this question, let us give you some perspective. The Serbinator tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16 and was seen attending a charity event sans a mask on December 17 in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. He also broke the isolation rules of his country, giving an interview and doing a photoshoot on December 18 for L’Equipe. He defended his step saying he didn’t want to let down the reporter.
In his declaration form after arriving in Australia, the player with one of the best cross backhands ever, said he hadn’t travelled 14 days prior to his departure from Belgrade. He, instead, had travelled to Spain during that period – the player later admitted. Djokovic might have got into an unwanted tiff with the Australian authorities, but he should have handled himself better, given the global condition. The pandemic has taken over five million lives, and over three billion people are currently affected by it.
As a legend of the game, Novak Djokovic’s image will surely take a dent after this long, unsavoury tussle in Down Under – out of which he came out on the losing side. As inspirations and global trend setters, athletes as huge as Djokovic should be setting better examples for the generations to follow. He might become the player with the highest number of Grand Slams in the future, but he will not remain as ‘untainted’ as Federer and Nadal hereon.
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