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Tennis

Updated on: Friday, January 14, 2022, 02:45 PM IST

The Novak Djokovic visa saga — all you need to know about it

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after playing a shot during the 2016 Australian Open | AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after playing a shot during the 2016 Australian Open | AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS

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The Australian government cancelled world men's no.1 Novak Djokovic's visa for the second time on public interest ground, three days ahead of the Australian Open.

Djokovic's lawyers are expected to appeal the cancelation in the Federal Circuit and Family Court as they successfully did after the first cancellation.

Here's all about the incident till now:

April 2020: Vaccine concern

In a Facebook live stream with fellow Serbian athletes in April of 2020, Djokovic revealed his doubts over vaccinations, even before a COVID-19 vaccine had been created.

"Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel," he said.

"But, if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision."

June 2020: Djokovic tests positive

In June of that year, Djokovic and four other top men's tennis players tested positive for the virus after playing in the Adria Tour exhibition tournament in the Balkan region.

This tournament, organised by Djokovic himself, was widely criticised by the sporting world for being held with few health and safety protocols, such as masks and social distancing, as the first wave of coronavirus swept across the world.

July - September 2021: Vaccination status?

The 2021 US Open in August required fans to show proof of vaccination to attend, but athletes themselves were not required to be vaccinated to participate.

Djokovic — alongside other players, including world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas — either refused to answer questions on their vaccination status or expressed doubts when asked by media ahead of the event.

October 2021: Strict Australian government

As attention turned to the Australian Open, state and federal government ministers said vaccinations would be mandatory for participating athletes.
Federal immigration minister Alex Hawke, when asked about Djokovic's vaccination status, said players would not be able to enter the country and compete in the Australian Open unless they were fully vaccinated.

December 2021: Tournament entry lists

Despite all signs pointing to Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open — as well as the lead-up tournaments such as the ATP Cup — the Serbian was included on entry lists for both tournaments by their respective governing bodies, even while his vaccination and medical exemption status were unknown.

This was despite the Victorian government reiterating its vaccine stance after being asked about whether Djokovic had applied for medical exemptions to play in Melbourne.

January 2022: Tennis Australia's permission

On Tuesday, Djokovic posted on social media that he would be participating in the Australian Open after being granted a medical exemption.

In a statement, Tennis Australia revealed Djokovic had applied for the exemption alongside 25 other applicants in a "blind" assessment process involving two panels of three independent doctors, one organised by it and the other by the Victorian government.

Those independent panellists did not know the names, ages nor country of origin of applicants being reviewed.

While neither Djokovic nor Tennis Australia has revealed the reason for the world number one men's tennis player's exemption, it's believed that Djokovic's previous COVID-19-positive antibody status might be a possible reason for his exemption, although he has not revealed if he tested positive to the virus in the past six months.

January 6, 2022: Visa application denied

After two days of public backlash, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the federal government had cancelled Djokovic's visa while the player and his team were still inside Melbourne's international airport.

"No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment," Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said.

"Since 15 December 2021, fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption, and enter eligible states and territories quarantine-free," she said.

It is unclear what Djokovic's next steps will be. He is entitled to challenge the ruling in court, but the Federal Court has not yet received an application from his lawyers.

January 10, 2022: Visa reinstated

Djokovic's appeal against the cancellation of his visa was successful. Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstated 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. Kelly also noted Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne's airport with a medical exemption given to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels.

The government was ordered to release the world no.1 from immigration detention.

January 12, 2022: Djokovic's 'clarification'

A day after being confirmed as the no.1 seed for Australian Open, Djokovic posted a public statement for the first time on his Instagram account. The nine-time and defending Australian Open champion acknowledgeD a mistake on his travel declaration for Australia -- which failed to indicate that he had been in multiple countries over the prior two weeks -- and confessed to an "error of judgment" in taking part in an interview and photo shoot in Serbia last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it "a human error and certainly not deliberate." He also sought to clarify what he called "continuing misinformation" about his movements after he became infected last month.

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Published on: Friday, January 14, 2022, 02:45 PM IST
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