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5 Jan, 2022 14:08

Novak Djokovic ‘denied entry’ to Australia in visa issue

Australian officials have refused to support Novak Djokovic's visa in a move which again casts doubt on his participation in the Australian Open
Novak Djokovic ‘denied entry’ to Australia in visa issue

Novak Djokovic faces an anxious wait to discover if he will be eligible to play at the Australian Open after Victorian officials refused to support his visa to enter the country despite being medically cleared to do so.

Djokovic, who is understood to be unvaccinated against Covid-19, announced on Tuesday that he had successfully received a medical exemption to play in this month's first Grand Slam event of the new year, where he is hoping to win his fourth-straight tournament in Melbourne and set a new all-time Grand Slam record in the process.

However, his participation is again in question according to a report by Australian publication The Age who state that the Serb - who has landed in the country - submitted an incorrect visa application.

Per their report, Djokovic's particular type of visa doesn't allow for medical exemptions for unvaccinated people and prompted the Border Force in Melbourne to petition the Victorian government to sponsor a renewed application.

However, it appears that this request has been denied out of hand - with Labour MP for Western Victoria and acting Victorian sports minister Jaala Pulford confirming that they will not back Djokovic's request to enter the country.

"The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia," Pulford explained on social media.

"We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.

"We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors."

It is thought that the Border Force has discretion to grant entry to the country in situations such as this regardless of the backing of local government, although a resolution is unclear. 

The move is the latest hurdle facing Djokovic in defense of his Australian Open crown and is said to reflect vitriol towards the Serb from within Australian political circles, who The Age suggests feel uncomfortable in being seen to support his participation in the tennis event in spite of his vaccine hesitancy, and amid strict rules governing entry into the country throughout the pandemic.

Djokovic's delay in entering the country is the latest legal haranguing related to his entry. 

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews reaffirmed the country's stance on entry requirements this week, saying that "any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our strict border requirements."

"While the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border."

However, it emerged that Djokovic was one of a "handful" of players adjudged by a medical panel to be afforded medical exemptions in a move which has divided opinion in the country.