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Djokovic vs Australia

Will world number one men’s tennis champ Novak Djokovic realise his dreams of a record 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open? Not if Australian authorities have anything to do with it. 

The Serbian superstar has been at the centre of a news storm after he was nearly kicked out of the country for arriving without a vaccine certificate. Djokovic has openly opposed Covid vaccines.😑

“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders,” Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, tweeted. “No one is above these rules.”

But the Australian authorities hardly covered themselves with glory in how they handled the matter. There was conflicting information about whether Djokovic could be granted exemption from having a vaccine as he’d tested positive for the virus in December. A federal court overturned the authorities’ decision and it increasingly seems like it was less of a bold public health decision and more of an appeal to voters ahead of the country’s May polls. A hard line on border control has long been a favourite electing talking point. Djokovic has also come out of the brouhaha looking bad. The date of his positive Covid test coincides with several public engagements, where he appeared without a mask. 🤦🏽‍♀️

What happens now? Djokovic has been included in the Australian Open draw and has been spotted practising, but his visa could still be rescinded as Morrison’s government stews over how to come back from what is rapidly shaping into a PR disaster. Djokovic was detained with other asylum seekers, drawing attention to the country’s often inhumane approach to immigration, and its tendency to detain first and ask questions later. Meanwhile, Australia continues to battle an economy-crippling surge of Omicron infections and a shortage of Covid tests. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 13 January 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.