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11 Jan, 2022 09:38

ATP makes renewed vaccination plea in wake of Djokovic debacle

The ATP has finally responded to the scandal surrounding world number one Novak Djokovic
ATP makes renewed vaccination plea in wake of Djokovic debacle

Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa row has been “damaging” to all involved, according to the ATP, which issued a renewed plea for tennis stars to get vaccinated.

Djokovic was released from his detention in Melbourne on Monday after federal circuit court judge deemed that the Serbian star had been treated “unreasonably” when having his visa canceled upon arrival in the country last week.

The 34-year-old, who is unvaccinated, remains under the threat of deportation as Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has reserved the right to intervene personally in the case despite the judge’s ruling.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has been seen training as he remains intent on lining up to defend his title when the Australian Open begins at Melbourne Park on January 17.

Bosses at the ATP, which organizes the men’s tour but does not oversee Grand Slams, have finally issued their verdict after being conspicuous by their silence as the scandal unfolded.

“The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of Covid-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place,” read a statement from the organization.

“Complications in recent days related to player entry into Australia have however highlighted the need for clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules.

“In traveling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations.

“The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.”

The drama surrounding Djokovic has centered on a medical exemption he received from Tennis Australia and the Victoria state authorities to compete at the tournament after recovering from a Covid infection in December.

As Djokovic is unvaccinated, that was deemed insufficient for him to enter the country by the federal authorities.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner was held at an infamous Melbourne immigration detention hotel before his appeal was heard, in a case which triggered a diplomatic dispute between Australia and Serbia.

Without being involved in the medical exemption process for Djokovic, the ATP said it had sought clarity from Tennis Australia during the saga and urged all its professionals to get vaccinated against Covid.  

“We welcome the outcome of Monday’s hearing and look forward to an exciting few weeks of tennis ahead,” it said.

“More broadly, ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic.

“This is based on scientific evidence supporting the health benefits provided and to comply with global travel regulations, which we anticipate will become stricter over time.

“We are encouraged that 97% of the Top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year’s Australian Open.”

A new threat appeared on Tuesday for Djokovic’s participation at the tournament when he was accused of providing false information on his travel declaration form to enter the country.

The document, which was completed by an agent on Djokovic’s behalf, stated that he had traveled not or would not travel in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, although images circulating on social media appeared to show him in Serbia on December 25 and 26.

Djokovic is then said to have traveled to Spain at the end of the month, where he remained at the start of January before heading to Australia.  

The Australian Border Force is investigating the claims.