Novak Djokovic landed in Melbourne on Wednesday amid controversy but was denied entry into Australia because of an error with his visa application.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced Tuesday he’d been granted a medical exemption that would allow him to compete at the Australian Open without being vaccinated — a decision that was met with outrage by local residents who have been subjected to months of lockdown during the pandemic.
And when Djokovic arrived in Australia, one official was unmoved by the error with his visa, which stemmed from paperwork being incorrectly completed in regard to his medical exemption status.
Jaala Pulford, the acting sports minister in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, said the state wouldn’t support his application.
“The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,” she tweeted. “We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.”
This came after the prime minister of Australia said he wanted proof of Djokovic’s exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine that cleared the defending Australian Open champion — and nine-time winner — to participate in the tournament later this month.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic, 34, would be on “the next plane home” if his public claim of a legitimate exemption can’t be proved in a timely fashion.
The Serbian had said he wasn’t likely to play in the event based on harsh quarantine rules. But a two-step application process to Tennis Australia led to the exemption.
Exemptions can be granted based on “adverse reactions to previous vaccines” and a history of heart inflammation, among others, according to Tennis Australia. The reason for Djokovic’s exemption is not being shared at this time, the organization’s CEO said.
“We completely understand and empathize with people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination,” Craig Tiley of Tennis Australia said. “However, it is ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition, if he chooses to do that, and the reasons why he received an exemption.”
More than 90 percent of Australia has received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination and the country has been strict with travel and large gatherings.
Djokovic said Tuesday he was ready for the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 17, but his vaccination status is not confirmed. His exemption caused ripple effects in the public over what some termed undue special treatment for athletes.
“We await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that,” Morrison said at a press conference regarding the spike in COVID-19 cases this month. “If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.”
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)