Tennis android and champion super-spreader Novak Djokovic is currently on Australian soil ahead of the 2022 Australian Open. He’s won the first major of the year nine times, yet he might not get a chance to go for his 10th and break a three-way tie for most major singles titles, since he is unvaccinated and therefore ineligible to enter the country.
Djokovic, after urging everyone to “feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet,” announced Tuesday that he was heading to Melbourne to play in the Open thanks to a vaccine exemption. While Djokovic was in the air between Dubai and Melbourne, Australian authorities discovered that he did not have the correct visa to enter the country without being vaccinated even if the Open approved his exemption, per Australian paper the Age. Because he does not have the legal ability to enter Australia or the province of Victoria, he is currently not allowed to leave Melbourne’s airport. Per Victorian MP Jaala Pulford, her government denied a Border Force request to simply let Djokovic in (the feds denied making this request):
The thing about the Australian Open is that it takes place in Australia. The thing about Australia and Victoria is that their laws supersede those of Tennis Australia, so while Djokovic had his entry cleared with the hosts of the tournament, he failed to do so with the country where said tournament takes place. The other thing about Australia is that it is an island, and as such, has exercised serious vigilance to keep COVID-19 out of its borders. The thing about Novak Djokovic—again, a nine-time Australian Open champion—is that he’s a kooky weirdo and telekinesis enthusiast who will not say why he’s not vaccinated.
It follows then that Australian Open authorities and Australian authorities would have different standards for letting Djokovic enter their respective territories. Melbourne just exited the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdown in late October, yet cases are once again spiking as the Omicron variant has inevitably breached the island’s rather strict containment measures. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to the media on Wednesday, saying that Djokovic needed to prove “a genuine medical exemption” or face expulsion. While Djokovic is good for business, tennis-wise, his entry into the country made Australians furious.
Djokovic’s colleagues are also well aware of the interlocking and somewhat conflicting regulations governing his entry into the tournament, and Australian player Alex de Minaur smirked that it was all “very interesting.”
Djokovic will now have to prove that he is not vaccinated because of an “acute major medical condition,” which is a contradictory position for a world-bestriding tennis automaton to be in. I suppose the lesson here is that you should never confuse the relative sovereignties of nations and tennis tournament organizers, which really should be easy unless the Tennis Australia people arm themselves and declare themselves a breakaway tennis enclave.
Update (4:20 p.m. ET): After chilling in the airport for a while, Novak Djokovic has had his visa application denied. He’ll ask provincial authorities to reconsider his exemption, presumably on the grounds that his access to arcane crystal magicks makes him immune or whatever, though it seems like he’s probably outta here.
This phase of the saga is probably over for now, though there’s a nonzero chance Djokovic’s ejection sparks a genuine international incident.