Novak Djokovic challenges Australian visa revocation in federal court

World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic was denied entry to Australia on Thursday amid a storm of protest over the decision to grant him a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements to play in the Australian Open.

The tennis star was hiding in a quarantine hotel in Melbourne as his lawyers requested an urgent injunction to allow him to remain in the country after he was detained by border officials.

The saga, fueled by local political points about the country’s handling of a record spike in new Covid-19 infections, created an international incident where the Serbian president claimed harassment of its star player.

«There are no special cases, rules are rules,» Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a televised briefing. «We will continue to make the right decisions when it comes to securing Australian borders in relation to this pandemic.»

Djokovic, who has consistently refused to reveal his vaccination status while publicly criticizing mandatory vaccinations, started the furor when he said on Instagram that he had been given a medical exemption to pursue his record 21st Grand Slam win at the World Open starting January 17.

The announcement sparked outrage in Australia, particularly in the tournament’s host city Melbourne, which has suffered the world’s longest cumulative lockdown to stave off the coronavirus.

Australia’s adult vaccination rate of around 91 per cent is high by international standards and there is little public sympathy for those who refuse to be vaccinated, with the Omicron variant sending case numbers to record levels.

However, the Australian government’s move to block his entry caused clashes between Canberra and Belgrade.

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Twitter that he spoke with Djokovic to reassure the player that «all of Serbia is with him and our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the best tennis player in the world will be ended immediately.»

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