Columns

World's Top Tennis Player Detained in Australia Over Vax Status

(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The Australian Open is the first event of the calendar year in professional tennis’ Grand Slam — the top four events on the tour. So it would stand to reason that the number one men’s player in the world and defending Australian Open champion would be able to play when the tournament starts on Jan. 17, right?

Not so fast, at least not in the COVID penal colony that is Australia.

Novak Djokovic, the 20-time major tournament winner who is at the top of the men’s tennis game these days, is currently stuck in visa limbo, possibly through the weekend, and he could be deported from Australia over his vaccination status.

The nine-time Australian Open champ “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the requirements to enter the country,” writes Paul Sakkal of Melbourne newspaper The Age. “This evidence must be presented at the border by unvaccinated people.”

Djokovic has declined to say whether he has received a COVID shot — presumably because it’s nobody’s business. A judge has postponed the tennis star’s hearing until Monday.

ESPN reports:

Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly adjourned Djokovic’s case until Monday because of a delay in receiving the application for a review of the visa decisions and the temporary ban on his deportation. A lawyer for the government agreed that Djokovic should not be deported before the next hearing.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne in the state of Victoria thinking that he was clear to enter the country. His claim of a medical exemption was apparently enough for him to get into Victoria and enter the Australian Open, but Australian Border Force disagreed.

The ostensibly conservative Australian government has taken a hard line, and even Prime Minister Scott Morrison has weighed in on the “very clear” rules involving vaccine exemptions.

“You need to have a medical exemption,” Morrison said. “He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced.”

Authorities have transferred Djokovic to a hotel that also houses refugees.

Related: Australian Defense Force Called in to Haul COVID Patients to Quarantine Camps

The tennis star’s parents have reacted somewhat hysterically. His father Srdjan claimed that Australia was “stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people,” while his mother Dijana says that authorities “are keeping him as a prisoner.”

Fox News has also reported that protesters have gathered outside the hotel, holding signs and expressing their support for Djokovic.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has rented a house in Melbourne, and he has asked Australian authorities to transfer Djokovic there.

Is Australia singling out Djokovic? ESPN points out that Morrison claims not, but he also hinted that Djokovic’s social media posts about his medical exemption put a target on his back.

“One of the things the Border Force does is they act on intelligence to direct their attention to potential arrivals,” he said. “When you get people making public statements about what they say they have, and they’re going to do, they draw significant attention to themselves.”

Anyone who does that, he said, “whether they’re a celebrity, a politician, a tennis player … they can expect to be asked questions more than others before you come.”

I and others here at PJ Media have written before about how tyrannical the Australian government and its various states have been when it comes to the pandemic. Just today my colleague Megan Fox wrote about how “the ‘health’ officials are prohibiting fresh air and exercise for unvaccinated Australians” in the Northern Territory for the next four days.

Now that authoritarian spirit might prevent the best man in professional tennis from trying for his fourth title in a row. And that’s a shame.