Djokovic included in Australian Open draw despite visa situation uncertain
World tennis number 1 Novak Djokovic was included in the official Australian Open draw on Thursday, although it remains uncertain whether the government will revoke the seed’s visa for the second time.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is evaluating the exercise of his discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa over concerns over the superstar’s medical exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
Djokovic, who was training at Rod Laver Arena earlier on Thursday, has drawn fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic for his first-round match, which is scheduled to be played on Monday or Tuesday.
The organizers had delayed the official draw by more than an hour, without explanation.
Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, fueled widespread anger in Australia last week when he announced he was traveling to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption from the requirements for visitors are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Upon arrival, Australian border force officials ruled that his exemption was invalid and he was held with asylum seekers in a migrant detention hotel for several days.
A court on Monday allowed him to stay on the grounds that officials had been “unreasonable” in the way they handled his interview during a seven-hour process in the middle of the night.
The Australian government, which has garnered strong support at home for its strong stance on border security before and during the pandemic, must now decide whether to let Djokovic stay and bid for a record-breaking 21st major title.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on Djokovic’s visa on Thursday.
Errors on Djokovic’s side
Djokovic’s case was not helped by an error in his entry declaration, where the box indicating that he had not traveled overseas in the two weeks prior to his departure for Australia was checked.
In fact, he had been to Spain from Serbia.
Djokovic, 34, attributed the error to his agent and admitted that he also should have postponed an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper on December 18 when he was infected with COVID-19.
WATCH | Human error to blame, Djokovic says of an inaccurate travel document:
Fans, including many Serbian Australians, gave him loud support during his detention, anti-vaccines hailed him as a hero, and his family described him as a champion of individual rights.
But Djokovic can face hostility from the crowd if he comes out on the pitch.
There is widespread anger at the saga among Australians, who have a 90% vaccination rate among adults and are battling a wave of the Omicron variant after suffering some of the world’s longest lockdowns aimed at curbing the pandemic.
There can also be resentment in the locker room, where all but three of the top 100 men are vaccinated.
Great tennis player Martina Navratilova told Australian TV that Djokovic should “suck her off” and go home.
“Ultimately, sometimes your personal beliefs need to be replaced with what is good for the greater good, for those around you, for your peers,” she told Seven’s Sunrise Program. “You have two choices, get the shot or just don’t play.”
WATCH | Djokovic allowed to stay in Australia, for now: