Melbourne: Novak Djokovic’s entrance visa was revoked by Australia on Thursday, paving the door for his detention and repatriation in a remarkable turnaround for the tennis world number one. The Serb had arrived in Melbourne the night before, after announcing on social media that he had received a medical exemption to compete in the event despite not having confirmation of full vaccination against Covid-19.
The vaccination exemption, given by the Australian Open organizers after two medical panels authorized his application, infuriated Australians who had been subjected to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions for the past two years.
But the nine-time Australian Open champion never got past border control.
“Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled,” the Australian Border Force said in a statement.
“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia,” it added.
“The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our laws and entry requirements.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country’s strict border policies had been critical to keeping death rates low.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders,” he said.
“No one is above these rules.”
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the government made “no apologies” for protecting the border.
“Individuals who do not meet our strict requirements will be denied entry to Australia, it does not matter who they are,” she said in a statement.
Djokovic was expected to leave Australia at the earliest opportunity after the loss of his visa.
Serbia’s president blasted Australia for the “maltreatment” of the star.
President Aleksandar Vucic said on Instagram he spoke with Djokovic over the phone and told him that “the whole of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world’s best tennis player ends as soon as possible”.
“In line with all standards of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, justice and truth.”
The Australian government’s decision followed a wave of anger over the granting of Djokovic’s exemption.
Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice-president, said it sent an “appalling message” to people trying to stop the spread of Covid-19.