JANET STREET-PORTER: Australian government to show Novaxx Covid diva the door

If you’ve ever thought that there are equal terms in sports, the events of the last 24 hours in Melbourne show that it’s a hollow joke.

At the very top level, forget about equal opportunities. If you’re a guaranteed winner, a ticket raffle, a reigning champion – which sponsors and advertisers love – obvious favoritism and special treatment is yours to accept.

Australia is currently battling the latest wave of Covid with record highs of infections (almost 300,000 over the Christmas period).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has changed his mind about masking, social distancing and border control so many times, it’s no wonder long-suffering Australians are fed up with their back teeth.

If you ever thought that there were equal conditions in sports, the events of the last 24 hours in Melbourne show that it is a hollow joke, writes JANET STREET-PORTER.  There is one rule for Novak Djokovic (pictured) - and another set of rules for pure mortals

If you ever thought that there were equal conditions in sports, the events of the last 24 hours in Melbourne show that it is a hollow joke, writes JANET STREET-PORTER. There is one rule for Novak Djokovic (pictured) – and another set of rules for pure mortals

You will recall that over 40,000 Australian citizens were unable to return home from March 2020, when the Prime Minister kept the borders tightly closed.

Many saw their loved ones die from abroad, forced to attend funerals via zoom. Families were split in two, with workers and students stranded abroad and running out of cash.

In November last year, entry requirements were relaxed a bit so that citizens could return, and a limited list of foreign professionals also gained entry if they were doubled and tested negative.

Although funny enough, a bunch of foreign celebs and movie stars managed to gain access to Australia many months earlier – including Rita Ora, Matt Damon, Idris Elba, Zac Efron, Ed Sheeran, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Some filmed or appeared on television – important life-saving work that you probably agree with, but no consolation for the smaller citizens who stranded miles from home.

On his side is the reigning world champion in tennis, the man who has won 20 Grand Slams, and the Australian Open in the last three years – not just ‘special’, a sports god, he also has a remarkable ability to move around the world in a pandemic.

There is one rule for Novak Djokovic – and another set of rules for pure mortals.

As I write, Djokovic is sitting in a room at Melbourne Airport, detained by border agents as the farce surrounding his permission to compete in the Australian Open (which starts on 17 January) unfolds.

As I write, Djokovic is sitting in a room at Melbourne Airport, detained by border agents as the farce surrounding his permission to compete in the Australian Open (which starts on 17 January) unfolds.

As I write, Djokovic is sitting in a room at Melbourne Airport, detained by border agents as the farce surrounding his permission to compete in the Australian Open (which starts on 17 January) unfolds.

A major controversy erupted earlier in the week when it emerged he had been given “medical exemption” by two independent panels of doctors that allowed him to circumvent the strict conditions requiring all players, workers and spectators involved in the event needs to be double-vaccinated.

Foreign players must not only present proof of vaccination, they must take a PCR test on arrival and remain in isolation until they get a negative result.

We are told that 26 players requested medical exemptions – usually only given to people who have suffered a negative reaction to vaccines or have had serious medical conditions or recently had surgery.

An even smaller handful – including Djokovic – were allowed.

As tennis legend Rod Laver puts it, Djokovic is obviously super fit – so for what reason did he manage to secure the right to play?

From the moment I first saw him in first place at Wimbledon over almost ten years ago, I have been a huge fan.

Of course, he is moody, temperamental and angry. But it’s his annoying personality traits, not his tennis skills.

When in shape, Novak is the most magical creature you will ever see on a tennis court.

I’ve been playing tennis since I was 12 and I’ve been training for years, but I never want a millionth of his natural talent.

And so, even though Djokovic is an annoying slut at times, I honor his hard work and determined brilliance.

But there is one aspect of his tortured personality that is troubling – his resolute refusal to say where he stands with Covid and vaccinations.

Back in June 2020, when the pandemic was still in its early stages, Djokovic hosted a tennis tournament in the Balkans with exhibition matches in his home country Serbia and Croatia.

There was a complete lack of social distancing, and no requirement for competitors to take samples.

After a player – Dimitrov, tested positive, Djokovic flew home to Monaco without being tested – and set a shocking example for younger players – although he later apologized.

JANET STREET-PORTER: Australia need to show some courage and lead this diva to the door

JANET STREET-PORTER: Australia need to show some courage and lead this diva to the door

His wife, coach and three top players were all subsequently tested positive after what had turned out to be a super-spreader event.

This was at a time when tennis players outside the world’s top 50 were really fighting for money when tournaments around the world were canceled.

There have been consistent rumors that some players would deliver negative tests acquired with questionable means of playing and not losing income.

Either way, in any sport there will be a few cheats.

Djokovic spoke out against vaccinations and what he calls ‘extreme precautions’ against covid in 2020, saying these are private matters for individuals – as a result, critics have dubbed him Novaxx Djocovid.

This week, after receiving his medical exemption (for whatever reason), Djokovic and his team boarded a flight from Dubai to Melbourne.

Upon arrival, the border guards discovered that he had applied for the wrong type of work visa, one which allegedly did not allow medical exemptions.

And that’s why the world’s number one tennis player is sitting in a room at Melbourne Airport waiting to hear if more rules will be bent to give him access to a city that has spent more days in lockdown than anyone else, since Covid started back in March 2020.

During that time, Djokovic has lived in luxury in Monte Carlo, where he has played in tournaments when allowed, and remained wordy as to whether he has ever been vaccinated.

The people of Melbourne have spent much of the last two years being prevented from shopping, working, walking in the park, traveling to other Australian states and even playing tennis for fun.

Not surprisingly, the decision to give a millionaire superstar a dispensation has fallen like the famous cup of cold-sick Down Under.

Is Tennis Australia so desperate that they think viewers will not watch if the Serb does not play? Rafael Nadal, who has also won 20 Grand Slams, arrived in the country the other day quietly and is preparing to compete.

Scott Morrison has told the press that Djokovic should not receive special treatment and will be put on the first flight home if he does not have all his papers in order.  We will see.  Pictured: The tennis star after winning the Open in 2021

Scott Morrison has told the press that Djokovic should not receive special treatment and will be put on the first flight home if he does not have all his papers in order. We will see. Pictured: The tennis star after winning the Open in 2021

The event will survive and flourish without the world number 1, even if the sponsors make the usual threats.

The organizers are always afraid of how important it is to attract young people from all ethnic backgrounds to the game – and they are starting to succeed.

Therefore, they have to take a stand on Djokovic because he is not an example to anyone, other than to demonstrate that he is worthy of a ‘special’ treatment.

Scott Morrison has told the press that Djokovic should not receive special treatment and will be put on the first flight home if he does not have all his papers in order. We will see.

The anti-waxes in Australia are loud and shouting people who do their best to keep the country closed. Despite their best efforts, 90% of those over 16 have had two jabs,

But there is a hard core of older people who are still resilient, and Djokivic is their poster. And now his father angrily urges supporters to take to the streets, claiming this is a fight for ‘libertarian rights’.

Australia need to show some courage and lead this diva to the door.

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