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Novak Djokovic ordered to explain his medical waiver

Novak Djokovic will not be deported from Australia until Monday, government lawyer Christopher Tran announced Thursday. The world number one in tennis, who arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday evening hoping to compete in the Australian Open, has filed a legal challenge against the cancellation of his visa. Mr Tran also said a further hearing would be held on Monday to decide whether or not to send the player off.

On Wednesday, pending a decision from the Australian courts, the Serb had been detained by immigration services in Melbourne since his arrival in the country. Authorities have canceled the visa of the player who arrived at Melbourne airport without the necessary documents to enter the country, Australian customs announced.

Djokovic, whose vaccination status is unknown, had obtained a medical waiver to be able to travel to Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open. “Foreign nationals who do not have a valid visa or whose visa has been canceled will be detained and deported from Australia”Customs said.

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A diplomatic affair

The affair has become diplomatic: it has gone up to the top of the Serbian state, since the president, Aleksandar Vucic, has denounced Australia’s attitude. Claiming to have spoken to the world number 1 in tennis on the phone, the Serbian head of state said on Instagram that “all Serbia was with [Djokovic] » and “the authorities were taking all necessary measures to ensure that the mistreatment of the best tennis player in the world ceases as soon as possible”. “In accordance with the standards of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and for the truth”said Mr. Vucic.

All smiles to announce his departure for Melbourne on his Instagram account on Tuesday, Novak Djokovic was disappointed when he arrived in Australia. According to the Australian press, the nine-time winner of the Australian Open did not complete the correct form to apply for a visa. The one he requested does not allow medical waivers.

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The Federal Customs Service contacted the government of the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, when Camp Djokovic realized his mistake, explains the daily. The Age. But this request was refused, reports Jaala Pulford, a minister of the State of Victoria. “The Federal Government asked us if we supported Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not endorse this request. (…) We have always been clear on two points: the study of visa applications is a prerogative of the federal government and medical exemptions, a prerogative of doctors”has she explained on Twitter.

Novak Djokovic supporters outside where the tennis player is being held by immigration authorities in Melbourne, Australia, January 6, 2022.

A medical derogation that questions

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 (from January 17 to 30). The player is indeed summoned to reveal the reasons which allowed him to obtain this medical exemption, under penalty of being fired “by the first plane” if this exemption was not justified.

The granting of this exemption has caused an outcry in Australia, where the measures put in place to combat SARS-CoV-2 have been particularly strict since the start of the pandemic. “We are waiting for his presentation and for him to provide us with evidence to support” this derogation, explained the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, at a press conference on Wednesday. “If this evidence is insufficient, then he will not be treated any differently than anyone else, and he will return home on the first plane. There will be no special rules for Novak Djokovic. Not the least »he insisted.

“It would certainly be useful for Novak to explain the conditions under which he requested and obtained an exemption”for his part launched to the journalists the boss of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, also director of the Australian Open. “I encourage him to speak to the community about this… We have been through a very difficult time over the past two years and I would appreciate some responses to this”he continued.

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However, says the Australian tennis boss, the world number one did not receive any preferential treatment to obtain this exemption, granted after a review of his request by the Australian authorities and those of the State of Victoria. In total, twenty-six players or members of their staff, out of the approximately three thousand people expected in Australia, have requested an exemption. Only a few of them have obtained it, revealed Craig Tiley.

“Anyone who meets the conditions has been allowed to enter. There was no special favor. There was no special treatment given to Novak”, he insisted. Craig Tiley explained that the two commissions responsible for examining exemption requests did so without knowing the identity of the applicants.

A “spit in the face”

In the meantime, the controversy swells in Australia. It’s a “spitting in the face of every inhabitant of the State of Victoria and every Australian”launched the former tennis player and now television commentator Sam Groth, in a column published by the daily Herald Sun from Melbourne. “You mean you have an exemption, but you don’t want to say why? It’s disgusting hypocrisy.”he added.

For his part, Rafael Nadal showed little emotion over Djokovic’s situation. “On the one hand, I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he had known the conditions for many months when he made his decision,” commented the Spaniard on Thursday. “Everyone is free to make their own decisions, but there are consequences”, added the world number six.

“I believe that if it was me who was not vaccinated, I would not have obtained an exemption”, complained British doubles player and brother of Andy Murray, Jamie, who is currently competing in the ATP Cup in Sydney. The participation of Novak Djokovic is qualified as “bomb” by The Courier Mailwhich title in “one” “You must be DJoking” (a pun meaning “you must be joking” in French), also recalling that Australia recorded nearly 50,000 contaminations on Tuesday.

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For months, “Nole” had cast doubt on his participation in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, due to the requirement for players to be vaccinated to enter Australia. In April 2020, he opposed the compulsory vaccination, then envisaged to allow the resumption of tournaments. “Personally, I am not for vaccines. I would not like someone to force me to get vaccinated to travel”he said then.

The exemption from which the player has benefited is provided for by Australian regulations in five specific cases (the fact of having contracted Covid-19 in the previous six months or a serious medical contraindication, in particular). But the federation, citing medical secrecy, also refused to say which applied to Novak Djokovic.

The World with AFP

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