Thursday, May 19

Serbian President Condemns “Harassment” of Djokovic Amid Backlash to Visa Cancellation | Novak Djokovic

The Serbian president has accused Australia of “mistreating” tennis star Novak Djokovic, who was denied entry to the country after he flew to Melbourne with a medical exemption from coronavirus vaccination rules.

Djokovic received a controversial exemption to enter Australia and compete in the Australian Open, but authorities held him at Melbourne airport for several hours before his visa was canceled. The Australian Border Force said it had not provided adequate evidence to support its exemption, and the player has now taken his case to court.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said the country had offered its support to the world’s No. 1. “I told our Novak that all of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything possible so that the harassment of the best tennis player in the world comes to an end. an immediate end, “he said in a statement.

Serbian media reported that Vučić had summoned the Australian ambassador to Belgrade and demanded that Djokovic be released immediately to compete.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected the suggestion of harassment on Thursday, saying: “Australia has sovereign borders and clear rules that are not discriminatory as many countries do … it has to do with fair and reasonable enforcement of laws. Australian border protection … all I can say is that the proof of medical exemption that was provided was deemed insufficient. “

In December, Tennis Australia published its Covid vaccination policy for the Melbourne Grand Slam, which included a process for players seeking medical exemptions to enter Victoria without undergoing a 14-day quarantine. Djokovic, who opposes the vaccination, said he had been granted an exemption to compete in the competition, although the exact nature of the exemption has not been confirmed.

The reigning Australian Open champion is understood to have relied on a previous Covid infection as the basis for his exemption to compete, but that is not recognized by the federal government.

Tennis Australia director Craig Tiley said exemption requests were de-identified and rigorously evaluated, and that only a handful of other players and officials had been granted exemptions out of 26 requests.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has strongly supported Novak Djokovic. Photograph: Marko Djokovic / EPA

The initial approval sparked public outrage before the tennis star landed, and the cancellation of her visa only added to the scandal.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, told Russian media that he was outraged by the treatment of his son. “Tonight they can throw him in a dungeon, tomorrow they can chain him. The truth is that he is like water and water makes its own way. Novak is the Spartacus of the new world who will not tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy. “

American player Tennys Sandgren, a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open in 2018 and 2020, said Australia did not deserve to host a Grand Slam. “To be clear here, two separate medical boards approved his exemption. And the politicians are stopping it, ”said Sandgren, who has also chosen not to get vaccinated or play in the tournament.

Renae Stubbs, a former stunt world number one and ESPN host, described the situation as “officially a massive shit show.”

“I think ScoMo [Australian prime minister Scott Morrison] He made this a moment because the Australian public is very upset with Djoker, “he said on Instagram. “I would be able to use ropes if I were [Djokovic]. Also, the other lesson is to get vaccinated. “

Morrison confirmed on Thursday that Djokovic’s visa was canceled, saying “rules are rules” and praising Covid’s federal policies, a day after saying such waivers were a matter for state governments. “Our strong border policies have been instrumental in Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from Covid, we remain vigilant,” he said.

Australian tennis legend Rod Laver previously told the Herald Sun newspaper that Djokovic should disclose the medical exemption he was granted. “Yes, you are a great player and you have played and won so many tournaments, so it cannot be physical. So what is the problem?”

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty said it had been difficult for Australians, and Victorians in particular, during the pandemic, but she had “no interest in talking about Novak’s medical history.” She added: “I understand why you may be frustrated with the decision. [to grant Djokovic an exemption]. “

The coach of 17-year-old Indian tennis player Aman Dahiya, who was denied an exemption to play the Australian Open youth championship, also accused Australian and tennis authorities of double standards for Djokovic’s early approval. Dahiya was denied entry because he was not vaccinated, because India has not yet allowed people under the age of 18 to receive a vaccine.

His coach, Jignesh Rawal, said that Dahiya had been offered to find a dose and a quarantine, but refused, saying that Dahiya was allowed to become “collateral damage” from Australia’s policies, but Djokovic was initially not. .

“It should be no different,” he said. “The circumstances don’t matter. The rule is that if you do not have two doses of vaccine you cannot enter ”, he said. “Djokovic may have special treatment on the court (like center court priority) but the entry point has to be the same.”

Morrison, who is being criticized for his refusal to make rapid tests free or affordable to address significant shortages and huge PCR wait times as the country struggles with the worst outbreak in its history, had harsh words for Djokovic on Wednesday.

At a press conference, he said Djokovic would be “on the next plane home” if he couldn’t provide proof of his medical exemption.

On Thursday morning, Djokovic was reportedly taken to a quarantine hotel ahead of possible deportation, but his lawyers have legally jumped in to obtain a court order.

At a speedy hearing before Australian Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly, it was suggested that a full hearing could be heard on Monday.

The court heard that Tennis Australia said it would need to know if Djokovic could compete on Tuesday for scheduling purposes. The court was also asked if Djokovic could be transferred to a hotel with a tennis court so that he could practice.

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