Novak Djokovic faces being deported from Australia—and missing his title defense at the Australian Open—after officials said the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player had his visa denied for failing to provide sufficient proof for a medical exemption from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
Djokovic will be “detained and removed from Australia” and his visa will be cancelled, according to a statement from the Australian Border Force released Thursday morning local time.
The Serbian tennis star was cleared to play in the Australian Open unvaccinated after officials in the state of Victoria approved his medical exemption application, but Djokovic did not provide “appropriate standards of proof” for his exemption to Australian border authorities, Australia’s Minister of Health Greg Hunt said on television Thursday.
12. That’s how many hours border authorities detained Djokovic at the Melbourne Airport before formally denying his visa.
Djokovic has questioned Covid-19 vaccines since early 2020, saying that April that he was “opposed to vaccination.” He was confirmed to be unvaccinated Tuesday when he announced he would participate in the vaccine-mandatory Australian Open thanks to an “exemption permission.” The Grand Slam tournament’s approval of Djokovic’s medical exemption – which unnamed sources told the Sydney Morning Herald was likely due to a lab-confirmed Covid-19 infection within the last six months – drew significant backlash in Australia, which requires visitors to show proof of vaccination or a valid exemption. Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that if Djokovic’s exemption was “insufficient” to meet the border authorities’ standards, then he would be sent on “the next plane home.”
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic threatened diplomatic action against Australia in an Instagram post translated by Reuters: “In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice. Novak is strong, as we all know.”