Novak Djokovic, the best tennis player in the world, was ready to participate in the Australian Open scheduled to run from January 17 to January 30 but Australia’s health minister said the Serbian tennis star’s visa had been “canceled” over failure to meet COVID entry requirements. Novak Djokovic was denied entry to Australia on Thursday after almost nine hours stuck at an airport in Melbourne. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press briefing Thursday that Djokovic failed to provide sufficient proof at the airport to receive a medical exemption to enter Australia. Australia has strict COVID-related entry rules, stipulating that those wishing to visit the country must be fully vaccinated against the virus. „He won’t be treated any different to anyone else, and he’ll be on the next plane home,” Morrison said. There was also a severe backlash in Australia to the decision to allow Djokovic an exemption. The Australian Border Force issued a statement saying Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. The medical exemptions, vetted by two independent panels of experts and based on information supplied anonymously by players and taken on face value, had been designed to allow Djokovic to play in the Australian Open.
The President of Djokovic’s native Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, blasted the “harassment” of the star. “In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice,” Vucic said on Twitter. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended the “completely legitimate application and process” and insisted there was no special treatment for Djokovic. The tennis star was transported to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. With just 11 days to go until the Open starts, a legal challenge could go all the way to the High Court. Australia’s adult vaccination rate of about 91% is high by international standards and there is little public sympathy for those who refuse to be inoculated.