Novak Djokovic: Serbian President claims ‘harassment’, what Australian PM says

World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia on Thursday amid a storm of protest about a decision to grant him a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements to play in the Australian Open.

The saga, fuelled by domestic political point-scoring about the country’s handling of a record surge in new COVID-19 infections, created an international incident with the Serbian president claiming harassment of its star player.

“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately.” — statement from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. _

“Not the most usual trip from Down Under” — Djokovic’s coach and 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, on social media during an overnight wait at the Melbourne airport. _

“Just to be crystal clear here. 2 separate medical boards approved his exemption. And politicians are stopping it. Australia doesn’t deserve to host a grand slam.” — two-time quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren of the United States, who is not playing the Australian Open this year because of the vaccination requirement, on Twitter. _

“Mr. Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.” — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, on Twitter. 

Djokovic travelled to Australia after receiving an exemption from the Victorian government, granted after a process that included a panel of health officials. That exemption – the reasons for which are not known – supported his federal government-issued visa to play at the Australian Open.

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