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Djokovic trains for Australian Open pending visa decision

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MELBOURNE – World tennis number one Novak Djokovic took to the pitch on Friday to train for the Australian Open as he waited to see if Australia would cancel his visa for the second time, threatening his candidacy for a 21st major tennis title.

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A relaxed-looking Djokovic has practiced his serves and returns with his entourage to an empty lot in Melbourne Park, sometimes leaning on a chair to wipe the sweat from his face.

Defending champion Djokovic was included in Thursday’s draw as a seed and was set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic for his opener, likely Monday or Tuesday.

A decision to revoke his visa again due to COVID-19 entry rules could spark a second court battle for the Serbian tennis star, after a court overturned an earlier revocation and released him on Monday from its detention for immigrants.

Melbourne’s The Age newspaper quoted a source in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party as saying that the government was “strongly leaning” to revoke the visa again.

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Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, fueled widespread anger in Australia when he announced last week that 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, the Australian Border Force ruled that his exemption was invalid and placed him in a migrant detention hotel alongside asylum seekers for several days.

Australia has suffered some of the longest lockdowns in the world, has a 90% adult vaccination rate and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases in the past two weeks.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said on TV Friday morning that visa decisions rest with the country’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, but the policy parameters of the government as a whole were “clear as hell. crystal”.

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“That is, people entering Australia who are not Australian citizens should be double-dose vaccinated unless they have a clear and valid medical exemption against it,” he said. stated on Channel 9’s Today Show.

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An online poll by media group News Corp found that 83% were in favor of the government trying to kick the tennis star out.

Greek world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas said Djokovic “played by his own rules” and made vaccinated players look “like fools”.

“No one really thought they could come to Australia without being vaccinated and having to go through protocols… it takes a lot of daring and putting the grand slam in jeopardy, which I don’t think a lot of players would do.” , Tsitsipas said. in an interview with Indian news channel WION.

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“Statistics show that 98% of the players have been vaccinated and have done what they need to do to come and play and play in Australia,” he said.

POLITICAL BENEFITS

The saga has intensified the global debate over the rights of choice for vaccines and has become a touchy issue for Prime Minister Morrison as he campaigns for re-election.

Australia is due to hold an election by May, and although Morrison’s government has won its country’s backing for its tough stance on border security, it has not escaped criticism over botched visa management. by Djokovic.

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However, 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.

The Melbourne Committee, which represents business and business leaders, says the city’s reputation for hosting events has been damaged by the conflict.

“Djokovic’s visa and immunization saga has poorly reflected everyone involved, which is a tragedy given the excellence of our infrastructure and tournament planning,” said committee chief executive Martine. Letts, at The Age.

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