Czech player deported from Australia ‘did nothing wrong,’ says WTA
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has backed Renata Voracova after the veteran star had her visa canceled and was told to leave Australia in the wake of the row surrounding men’s world number one Novak Djokovic.
Voracova became collateral damage in the aftermath of the visa saga which was ignited when defending Australian Open champion Djokovic arrived in the country last week with a vaccine exemption granted by the local tennis authorities and Victoria state.
Border officials disagreed with the exemption as the unvaccinated Serbian star had his visa canceled before being detained at a notorious Melbourne immigration facility.
It then emerged that at least two other players had already entered Australia with similar medical exemptions to Djokovic – one of whom was the 38-year-old Voracova, who is unvaccinated but recovered from a Covid-19 infection in December.
The Czech had already appeared at a tournament in Melbourne before being tracked down by the Australian Border Force (ABF).
The veteran was detained in the same Melbourne immigration hotel as Djokovic before having her visa canceled and being forced to leave the country last weekend.
The WTA has now weighed in after Voracova indicated she would be seeking compensation from Tennis Australia.
“The WTA is supportive and appreciative of all the efforts put forth by Craig Tiley and Tennis Australia to host the Summer of Tennis under conditions that continue to be challenging for all,” read a WTA statement.
“The WTA believes that all players should be vaccinated and is in full support of the immigration policies that have been put in place as the protection of the Australian communities in which we compete is critical.
“That being said, the complications experienced over the past few days where athletes have followed the approved and authorized process of receiving a medical exemption for entry into the country are unfortunate,” it added.
“Renata Voracova followed these rules and procedures, was cleared for entry upon her arrival, competed in an event and then suddenly had her visa cancelled when she had done nothing wrong.
“We will continue to work with all authorities on addressing this unfortunate situation in an appropriate manner.”
Voracova detailed her ordeal to Reuters and the Czech media on Tuesday, saying she was still “waking up from the shock” of the experience.
“I didn't expect that in the darkest dream, it was just too much,” said the former doubles world number 29.
“I hope Tennis Australia will face up to it [and pay compensation] and that we won't have to take legal steps,” she added.
Despite Djokovic’s high-profile saga ultimately leading to her expulsion, Voracova said she still hopes the Serb has the chance to remain in Australia to contest the Melbourne title he has won for the past three years and a record nine times overall.
Djokovic’s fate remains up in the air even though a federal circuit court judge ordered his release and the reinstatement of his visa on Monday.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has reserved the right to intervene personally in the case, while Djokovic was forced to apologize on Wednesday after it emerged there was a mistake in the travel declaration he presented to officials.
Specifically, it was indicated Djokovic had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, when in fact he had been in Serbia towards the end of December before decamping to Spain and then heading Down Under via transit in Dubai.
The basis for Djokovic’s case to remain in Australia is the medical exemption he received after recovery from a Covid-19 infection in December, although officials have said that is not sufficient and that he must be fully vaccinated to enter.
In addition to Voracova and Djokovic, an unnamed player in the same boat is said to have departed Australia “voluntarily” after being tracked down by the ABF last week.