Novak Djokovic lands in trouble

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic may have encountered a late snag on his trip to play in the Australian Open, after state government officials refused to support his visa application. Victoria’s acting sports minister, Jaala Pulford, said late on Wednesday that her state had rejected a request for help and visa approvals were a matter for the federal government. Australian media reports said the nine-time Australian Open champion may have submitted a request for the wrong type of visa. He reportedly landed in Melbourne late Wednesday. “The federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not be providing him individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam,” Pulford said on Twitter. 

The Australian newspaper said Djokovic was seeking to enter the country on a work visa which “was believed to require the support from the Victorian government”. Melbourne’s The Age newspaper said the federal Border Force had contacted the Victorian government when they realised Djokovic’s team had requested “the wrong type of visa”. Australians reacted with fury on learning that vaccine-sceptic Djokovic had received a medical exemption from a Covid vaccine in order to play at this month’s Open. Tournament chief Craig Tiley said the defending champion had been given “no special favour,” but urged him to reveal why he got the exemption to soothe public anger. 

All participants at the first Grand Slam of 2022, which starts on January 17, must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a medical exemption, which is granted only after assessment by two panels of independent experts. Djokovic announced on Tuesday he was en route to Melbourne with “an exemption permission.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that if the reasons for Djokovic’s exemption were “insufficient” the Serb would be “on the next plane home”. “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,” Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said.

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