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The Strange Saga of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open COVID Ban Isn’t Over Yet


The Strange Saga of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open COVID Ban Isn’t Over Yet

Controversy has been a regular part of the Novak Djokovic experience since he ascended to the upper echelon of tennis more than a decade ago, and the Serbian superstar is once again making headlines for his off the court behavior at the Australian Open. Djokovic, who refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19, was detained upon arriving in Australia on January 5 and had his visa canceled. The subsequent battle over whether he will play in the year’s first Grand Slam has been filled with the kinds of twists and turns usually reserved for an epic five-set match.

On December 30, Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to participate in the Australian Open by its governing body, Tennis Australia, which is the only way an unvaccinated athlete would be allowed to play, given the country’s strict vaccination rules. But when he arrived in Australia, this visa was canceled by the federal government because he is unvaccinated, as he admitted in an interview with the Australian Border Force last Thursday. Djokovic also explained in that interview that he had tested positive for COVID twice, once back in June 2020 and then again on December 16, 2021.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, even inserted himself into the situation, tweeting, “Mr. Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules” on January 5.” Australia has instituted lengthy lockdowns and strict measures to prevent the proliferation of COVID, but the Omicron variant has spread quickly around the country, and the Djokovic situation has sparked outrage from pro- and anti-vaccine contingents.

Subsequent reporting has found that Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt issued a statement on November 29 to Craig Tiley, CEO of Tennis Australia, stating that unvaccinated players could not use the fact that they had COVID-19 within the last six months as a valid reason to enter the country with a medical exemption.

Per a CNN timeline of Djokovic’s last year-plus, he attended a youth-oriented tennis event on the 17th, before he knew he had tested positive. But after he got…

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