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One day after receiving a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine and getting cleared to play in the 2022 Australian Open, Novak Djokovic has been denied entry into the Land Down Under.
Per The Times of London, the No. 1 ranked player in the world was stopped at the border Wednesday over a visa mix-up. Djokovic’s team reportedly requested a visa that isn’t valid for people who are medically exempted from the COVID-19 vaccine. It is currently uncertain whether the 2021 champion will be able to defend in the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to reporters in Canberra Wednesday and said that Djokovic will not receive preferential treatment, via The Guardian.
“If he is not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons,” Morrison said. “If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and will be on the next plane home—there should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic.”
While the federal government has asked for help in resolving the visa issue, the Victorian state government has refused. Jaala Pulford, Victorian sports minister, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that the state’s position has been clear all along.
“The federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,” Pulford said. “We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open grand slam. We’ve always been clear on two points: Visa approvals are a matter for the federal government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
Djokovic is one of 26 players to apply for a medical exemption. Tennis Australia did not reveal how many applications were approved, but said Djokovic is among a handful being exempted.
According to a report from The Age, Djokovic’s suspected reason for gaining a medical exemption is that he has been infected with COVID-19 within the past six months. A source told The Age that it’s unclear whether Djokovic’s justification for a medical exemption is sufficient enough to enter the country. This is reportedly a separate issue from the visa mix-up.
Djokovic has yet to comment on the visa issue, last posting a message on Twitter from an airport, saying he was en route to Australia.
“Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” he wrote. “I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!”
The 34-year-old is the joint record holder with 20 Grand Slam titles, alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles.
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