“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all, none whatsoever,” says Australian Prime Minister; Novak Djokovic is set to arrive for the Australian Open with an exemption for a Covid-19 vaccination
Last Updated: 05/01/22 11:52am
Novak Djokovic will be “on the next plane home” if his evidence for a Covid-19 vaccination exemption to play at the Australian Open is not satisfactory, the Australian Prime Minister has warned.
Djokovic ended weeks of speculation about his participation in the Grand Slam on Tuesday by revealing he will play after receiving an exemption from being double-jabbed – his vaccination status is unknown, although he has been a vocal critic of mandatory rulings.
“Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,” PM Scott Morrison said.
“He has to because if he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers.
“So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides to support that. If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home.
“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all, none whatsoever.”
Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said: “Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our strict border requirements.
“While the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border.
“Since December 15 2021 fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption, and enter eligible states and territories quarantine free.
“If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers.
“Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements.”
An independent commission reviewed 26 applications for a vaccination exemption and rubber-stamped “a handful”, according to Australian Open organiser Craig Tiley.
“No-one is, or will be, receiving special treatment because of who they are,” insisted Jaala Pulford, the acting Victoria State Sports Minister.
How has the tennis world reacted?
Jamie Murray said: “I think if it was me that wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t be getting an exemption. You know, but well done to him for getting clear to come to Australia and compete.”
Liam Broady said: “You have to trust that he does have a valid reason for the medical exemption.”
Rod Laver, the Australian legend, said: “I think it might get ugly. I’d think the Victorian people would be thinking ‘yes I’d love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there’s a right way and a wrong way’.
“If he’s got a reason for then [we should know it]. Yes, you’re a great player and you’ve performed and won so many tournaments, so it can’t be physical. So what is the problem?”
Sam Groth, a retired player, said: “It is a decision that spits in the face of every Victorian and Australian.
“When I first saw it, I can’t say I was surprised but for a guy that has said he will never disclose anything about his medical status, to come out and say he has the exemption was a brazen move.
“Why not just say you’re coming to Australia and maintain the code of silence? You’re willing to say you have an exemption but not willing to say why? It’s sick hypocrisy.”
Jordan Thompson backed Djokovic: “I think people should have their say if they want to get vaccinated or not, and I don’t – I just worry about myself. Honestly I’m glad that he’s playing.”
Australian player Alex de Minaur said: “I just think it’s very interesting. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Djokovic’s golden tournament
The Serbian, the current world No 1, is the most successful player in the history of the Australian Open with nine championships.
He is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 career Grand Slams.
But Federer will not play in Melbourne due to injury, although Nadal has recovered from Covid-19 in time to compete.
The Grand Slam begins on January 17.