Darko Bandic / AP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Novak Djokovic was on his way home to Serbia on Monday after his deportation from Australia due to its required COVID-19 vaccination put an end to the No. 1 ranked men’s tennis player’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title.
An Emirates plane with him from Australia landed in Dubai early Monday, and Djokovic was later seen aboard a plane scheduled to land in the Serbian capital Belgrade at 1 p.m. 12:10 CET. His lawyers had argued in an Australian court on Sunday that he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete in the tournament during a medical exemption due to a coronavirus infection last month.
Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies, drawing with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in men’s tennis history. Federer is not playing while recovering from an injury, and Nadal is the only former Australian Open champion in the tournament that began on Monday.
Djokovic has overwhelming support in his native Serbia, where his immediate family lives. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star and urged him to return where he would be welcomed.
Djokovic was tested positive for coronavirus in Belgrade on December 16, which he used as an argument to enter Australia, but his visa was initially canceled on January 6 by a border official who decided he did not qualify for a. medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.
He won an appeal to stay for the tournament, but Australia’s immigration minister later revoked his visa. Three judges in the federal court on Sunday unanimously decided to uphold the immigration minister’s right to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
Vaccination in the midst of the pandemic was a requirement for everyone at the Australian Open, whether it be players, their coaches or anyone at the tournament venue. More than 95% of all Top 100 men and women in their respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two men – American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert – skipped this year’s first major tournament due to the vaccine requirement.
Darko Bandic / AP
Djokovic’s attempt to obtain the medical exemption for not being vaccinated sparked outrage in Australia, where strict lockdowns in cities and borders for international travel have been used to try to control the spread of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
But Djokovic has overwhelming support in his native Serbia, and President Aleksandar Vucic said the trial in Australia was “a farce with a lot of lies.”
“They think they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, and they were actually humiliating themselves. If you said the person who was not vaccinated has no right to come in, Novak would not come or stay. vaccinated, “Vucic told reporters.
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