The Australian government handed down a on ruling Friday blocking Novak Djokovic from entering the country for the 2022 Australian Open. It’s the latest blow in a bizarre series of events that began a month ago in Belgrade, and is now throwing the tournament into chaos. With three days until the draw is set to begin, Djokovic is back in detention while his lawyers continue their fight to let the world No. 1 into the country.
It’s understandable if you’ve been confused on how this all unfolded, because this mess has so many different parties to blame, so many people involved, and will go down as one of the biggest sports debacles of 2022, even though it’s only January.
It begins with registration for the Australian Open …
Players around the world began making their preparations for the Australian Open in early Dec. Questions swirled about the safety and logistics of holding the event in the middle of the global pandemic, but Tennis Australia, the governing body over the sport in the country, was adamant it could be held without incident.
Players were informed of the Australian government’s position that in order to enter the country individuals must either show proof of vaccination, or secure a medical exemption allowing them to enter unvaccinated. The government clearly made people aware that the only acceptable reason for an exemption was if the individual was diagnosed with an “acute major medical condition” that would put them at risk by receiving a Covid vaccine.
On Dec. 1, Srdjan Djokovic, Novak’s father, appeared on Serbian TV blasting the requirements for foreign nationals to enter Australia. He claimed Novak, who was widely known to be unvaccinated, was being “blackmailed” by requiring him to be vaccinated. Srdjan made it sound like his son was being singled out, when in reality the rules apply equally to every single person attempting to enter Australia since the beginning of the pandemic.
It appeared Djokovic’s personal choice not to be vaccinated would not allow him to compete in the Australian Open. The player’s camp expressed their anger at Tennis Australia, who, as a tennis organization, don’t get to have any say on international governmental travel guidelines.
Stunningly, Djokovic travels to Australia despite not being vaccinated
The assumption throughout much of December was that Djokovic would not play in the Australian Open because of his vaccine status. Then, on Jan. 4 he shocked the world by posting a photo at an airport, with his luggage, saying he was heading Down Under.
In it he wrote “I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission,” which most people took to mean that he’d received approval from the Australian government to enter, but this was odd considering there was no evidence of Djokovic having an acute medical condition which would warrant receiving an exemption. It raised questions whether he was being given preferential treatment compared to others who had attempted, and been denied entry to Australia.