Novak Djokovic faces another D-Day in his battle to land the chance to defend his Australian Open title – but there is still no guarantee it will mark the end of the drawn-out saga.
The Serbian champion was waiting to hear whether the Australian government will revoke his visa for a second time as the row over his medical exemption from the country’s COVID-19 inoculation rules dragged on into its second week.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who has the discretionary power to cancel the visa, was expected to announced his decision on Friday.
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Yet the unvaccinated Djokovic, who has now learned his first round opponent in the grand slam – probably next Monday or Tuesday – will be his fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, is reportedly determined to continue the fight should the verdict go against him.
Multiple reports suggest that the government is leaning towards revoking the visa again and that Djokovic’s lawyers would immediately launch a legal appeal over any attempt at deportation, with the start of the grand slam less than 72 hours away.
Djokovic was continuing to practise at the Rod Laver Arena where he’s won his nine Australian Open crowns as if he were preparing as usual.
Yet the noise surrounding the 34-year-old’s potential reappearance continues to be deafening, with Djokovic’s cause clearly not helped by his admission that a wrong entry declaration had been made on his visa.
A box was ticked that confirmed he had not travelled abroad in the two weeks before leaving for Australia, even though he had actually been to Spain from Serbia.
He also acknowledged he shouldn’t have done an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper while infected with COVID-19 before Christmas.
One online poll by the News Corp media group showed that 83% of respondents were now backing the idea of the government trying to deport Djokovic.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians disapproved of Djokovic’s stance, saying: “Most of us thought because Mr Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice that he would be asked to leave – well, that was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view.
“The vast majority of Australians … didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or … the king of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with.”
Top players were also continuing to have their say, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of Djokovic’s biggest rivals for the title, asserting on Thursday: “For sure, he’s (Djokovic) been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do.
“Especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country.”
All-time great Martina Navratilova had advice for Djokovic, saying that sometimes your personal beliefs have to be trumped by what’s good for the greater good, for those around you, for your peers.”
Urging him to “suck it up” and go home, she added: “Get vaccinated or just don’t go play.”
With AP and Reuters
© AAP 2022