Tennis Tennis Champ Novak Djokovic Leaves Australia With No Vaccine and No Trophy

Tennis Tennis Champ Novak Djokovic Leaves Australia With No Vaccine and No Trophy

Tennis

He really caused a racket.

Novak Djokovic, the 34-year-old Serbian tennis champ currently ranked number one by the Association of Tennis Professionals by a substantial margin, has been called out by a different sort of umpire: Australian federal court. The star athlete, unvaccinated for COVID-19, was deported from the country on Sunday following a highly visible appeal. The Associated Press noted that a deportation order “usually includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.”

Djokovic, who ties Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with the highest number of Grand Slam wins at 20, has won at the Australian Open nine times, including the last three consecutive years. He was top-seeded for this year’s tournament before his lack of vaccination interfered. 

His plan to return to Melbourne Park’s famous blue courts quickly became an international story when the superstar was denied entry to the country by border police in early January due to Australia’s public health protocols.

In a statement on Sunday, Djokovic said: “I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.” He was photographed at the Melbourne airport wearing a 3M-manufactured mask at the airport lounge, before flying to Dubai.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, called Djokovic’s hearing to retain his visa “a farce with a lot of lies,” according to the AP’s report.

“They think that they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, and they actually humiliated themselves. If you said that the one who was not vaccinated has no right to enter, Novak would not come or would be vaccinated,” the 51-year-old politician said. He also called the incident “Orwellian.

Vucic’s comment reflects claims made by Djokovic’s lawyers concerning a special exemption given to the athlete. It was believed he would be allowed to enter Australia, despite being unvaccinated, because he had been recently infected with COVID-19. Nevertheless, Djokovic’s entry caused a great deal of consternation among Australian citizens, who have endured some of the globe’s more intense social restrictions during the pandemic. (In the U.S., Australia’s move was previously ridiculed by such notably level-headed thinkers as Fox News’s Laura Ingraham and Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Rand Paul referenced “barbed wire camps for the unvaccinated” in an Instagram comment.)

Djokovic pronounced himself “opposed to vaccination” in April 2020, though later softened his stance, saying he was “no expert” and wanted to keep “an open mind.”  In June 2020, Djokovic made a public apology for holding a tennis tournament in Serbia and Croatia, despite criticism that it flew in the face of social distancing restrictions. He, his wife Jelena, and three other players later tested positive for COVID-19.

In September 2020, Djokovic was disqualified from the U.S. Open after he swatted away a ball and it pelted a lineswoman in the throat. 

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