Novak Djokovic was returning to Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia for failing to comply with the country’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement, thereby destroying his chances of defending his Australian Open championship.
Djokovic arrived in Dubai early Monday on an Emirates flight from Australia, and he was subsequently observed boarding a jet bound for Belgrade, Serbia, around 12:10 CET. Due to a coronavirus illness last month, his attorneys argued in an Australian court on Sunday that he should be allowed to stay in the country and partake in the event under a medical exemption.
Djokovic has nine Australian Open victories, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles titles, tied for the most in men’s tennis history with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. While Federer is out due to injury, Nadal is the lone past Australian Open men’s champion at the competition, which began on Monday.
Djokovic has a large following in Serbia, where his closest relatives dwell. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused Australia of “harassing” the world number one tennis player and asked him to return to Serbia, where he would be welcomed.
Djokovic tested positive for coronavirus in Belgrade on Dec. 16, which he claimed as justification for entering Australia. However, his visa was first revoked on Jan. 6 by a border officer who determined he didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s unvaccinated visitor requirements.
He won an appeal to stay for the competition, but his visa was later canceled by Australia’s immigration minister. On Sunday, three Federal Court justices ruled unanimously in favor of the immigration minister’s decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa.
Vaccination was required for everyone at the Australian Open during the epidemic, including players, coaches, and tournament staff. More than 95% of the Top 100 men and women in their respective tours have been immunized. Due to the vaccination requirement, at least two guys — American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert – missed the first major event of the year.
Djokovic’s effort to obtain a medical exemption for not having been vaccinated aroused outrage in Australia, where tight city lockdowns and foreign travel restrictions have been implemented to try to contain the coronavirus’s spread since the outbreak began.
Djokovic, on the other hand, enjoys widespread backing in Serbia, with President Aleksandar Vucic calling the court hearing in Australia “a circus with a lot of falsehoods.”
“They believe they humiliated Djokovic by harassing him over ten days, but they actually embarrassed themselves.” Novak would not come or would get inoculated if you declared that anyone who isn’t vaccinated has no right to enter,” Vucic told reporters.