Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic had his visa cancelled Wednesday after being held under police guard at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, Australia. He had a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open from Jan. 17 to Jan. 30.
Djokovic was detained in an immigration hotel for a day and is likely to remain there while his visa application is processed and discussed among officials, according to the Associated Press.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference to address the growing outrage among many Australians over the decision.
Novak Djokovic must “provide acceptable proof” that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, Morrison said during the press conference, ABC News reported.
“If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any differently to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever,” Morrison said.
“The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled,” said Australian Border Force in a statement confirming that Djokovic has been rejected following his detainment.
Djokovic could be removed from the country Thursday, 11 days before the tournament is set to begin, The Guardian reported.
With tensions rising both among the Australian people and the government, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stepped in escalating the ban to a diplomatic issue, Reuters reported.
“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately,” Vucic said.
Serbian media allegedly reported that Vucic summoned the Australian ambassador demanding Djokovic be released and allowed to play.
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Tennis Australia and the Victorian government said, according to Reuters, that 26 applicants sought exemptions and Djokovic was one of those who was successful in the anonymous process. He was then detained and has been held since he landed at 11:30pm AEDT on Jan. 5, despite the exemption.
The Australian federal government was allegedly excluded from the exemption process, putting doubt on the legitimacy of the exemption for Djokovic in the Morrison governments eyes, Reuters reported. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Australia Once Again Proves It Is Basically An Island Of Prisoners With COVID Restrictions)
“We completely understand and empathise with people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said according to the outlet. “It is ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition, if he chooses to do that, and the reasons why he received an exemption.”