Novak Djokovic Denied Entry into Australia; Visa Canceled by Officials

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2022

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after missing a ball against U.S. Taylor Fritz during their quarterfinal match at the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Accor Arena, in Paris, France, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
AP Photo/Francois Mori

Australian officials have canceled Novak Djokovic's visa to enter the country, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Wednesday:

Scott Morrison @ScottMorrisonMP

Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.

The Australian Border Force issued a statement to confirm Djokovic had "failed to provide appropriate evidence" to enter the country, per ESPN.com:

"The ABF can confirm that Mr. Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled. Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia."

Djokovic had reportedly been told to leave Australia, but his lawyers plan to appeal the ruling.

Clint Stanaway @cstanaway

UPDATE: Novak Djokovic to remain in Melbourne for the time being - but ultimately, it’s likely to be a day trip. He’s about to be transported to a City quarantine hotel, run by the Federal Govt. Arrangements are now underway to source a return flight to Europe, likely today.

The Age's Paul Sakkal originally reported Wednesday the Serbian star was temporarily denied entry into Australia because of questions over whether he could sufficiently show why he warranted a COVID-19 vaccine exemption. In addition, he reportedly "was attempting to enter the country on a visa that did not permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated."

On Tuesday, Djokovic announced he received an exemption to compete in the 2022 Australian Open and was en route to Melbourne:

Novak Djokovic @DjokerNole

Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love &amp; joy in every moment &amp; may you feel love &amp; respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.<br><br>I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break &amp; today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! <a href="https://t.co/e688iSO2d4">pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4</a>

In November, officials from Tennis Australia announced players would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to compete in the Australian Open.

Djokovic said in April 2020 he was "opposed to vaccination" and "wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel." Djokovic's father, Srdjan, compared the Australian Open's vaccine mandate to blackmail.

News of Djokovic's medical exemption led to questions as to whether he was receiving preferential treatment because of his status within the sport.

The Associated Press' John Pye shared a statement from tournament organizers on the matter:

"Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts. One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation guidelines."

However, Australia Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said the Australian government still maintained final authority over players traveling to the country. Andrews reiterated that an unvaccinated traveler "must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons" and that "no individual competing in the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment."

Andrew Greene @AndrewBGreene

Statement from Home Affairs Minister suggests government could overturn Novak Djokovic’s exemption to enter Australia. The ABF Acting Commissioner is believed to be reviewing an “issue” with the tennis star’s Australian Travel Declaration. Department is yet to respond <a href="https://t.co/cAPnrDy17t">pic.twitter.com/cAPnrDy17t</a>

Jaala Pulford, the acting sports minister for Victoria, also said the state wouldn't support Djokovic's visa application:

Jaala Pulford MP @JaalaPulford

We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.<br><br>2/2

Sakkal wrote how the position "reflects the anger towards Djokovic among Victorian ministers and senior officials."

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic showed his support for Djokovic in a statement.

"I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world's best tennis player is brought to an end immediately," Vucic said, per Reuters.

The 34-year-old is the defending Australian Open champion, and his nine titles are the most all time in men's singles.

This year's tournament is slated to begin Jan. 17.