The second tennis player’s visa was revoked and the Australian Border Force asked to leave the country as Novak Djokovic issued a public statement for the first time since his arrest, thanking fans for their support.
Czech doubles specialist Renata Vorakova, who is due to play at the Australian Open this month, entered Melbourne with the same medical exemption that Djokovic was denied access to, after she indicated she had recently recovered from Covid-19. After successfully entering the Melbourne border with her medical exemption, Voracova actually played in the Melbourne Summer Set event, losing in the first round alongside her partner Katerizna Peter.
«We can confirm that the Czech tennis player Renata Vorakova is being held in the same detention as Djokovic with several other players,» the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement. There was no confirmation that any other player had been detained.
With supporters and detractors staying outside the Park Hotel where Voracova joined him, Djokovic issued a public statement for the first time since arriving in Melbourne on Friday night. “Thank you to people around the world for your continued support. I feel it and it is very much appreciated,” he said in a post on his Instagram Stories posted in Serbian and English.
Vurakova’s arrest comes amid fallout from Djokovic’s visa revocation and his transfer to an immigration hotel on Thursday pending an appeal hearing after the weekend. As the reason for his entry ban became the backdrop to an opportunistic political uproar, Border Force began tracking down two other Australian Open participants who had used the same medical exemption to enter Melbourne.
Has bad reputation
Voracova has also been moved to the Park Hotel in downtown Melbourne, the same infamous immigration detention facility where Djokovic is currently being held with some refugees who have been quarantined in their rooms for years. An official has also left the country, the only other person entering with the same medical exemption.
While Djokovic chose to appeal his detention, Vorakova decided not to appeal the revocation of her visa and would leave Australia. Voracova (38) is a former top 100 singles player and now 81st in doubles, has earned just $18 million (€15.8 million) in her 22-year career and has far fewer resources than Djokovic.
“We have submitted through our embassy in Canberra a note of protest and are asking for an explanation of the situation. The ministry statement added that Renata Vorakova had decided to withdraw from the tournament due to limited training opportunities and to leave Australia.
As news of Voracova’s revoked visa spread, No. 12 doubles player Nicole Melchard Martinez criticized the move in a tweet. «This is wrong on so many levels,» she wrote on Twitter. «I’ve really competed. Covid has recovered, so it’s probably the least dangerous person ever. It’s no longer about health, it’s political.»
Meanwhile, leaked documents on Friday left Tennis Australia with further questions to answer after Djokovic’s arrest. In the email sent to tennis governing bodies, the Australian Tennis Organization told players that a recent positive Covid-19 test would be one possible reason for medical exemption.
The emails to players were sent out a week after Greg Hunt, the federal health minister, sent an email to Craig Tilley, Tennis Australia’s chief executive, on November 29 informing him that people who had not been fully vaccinated would not be approved for quarantine. entry into Australia and that people who have contracted Covid-19 in the previous six months will not be considered fully vaccinated.
The Victorian government said it had not seen the debate between Tennis Australia and the federal government. «I have learned that members of the Victorian Government have not seen that correspondence,» said Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan.
«We won’t necessarily see it . . . but it makes the point that it is the Commonwealth government . . . who is responsible for issuing visas and how they engage in this dialogue with Tennis Australia is their business.»
Karen Andrews, the home affairs minister, has been opposed to the idea that Djokovic is being held in Australia,” Andrews told ABC. “He is free to leave. [the country] Anytime he chooses to do so and the Border Force will actually facilitate that.”
Djokovic’s visa was revoked after arriving at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Wednesday. Djokovic is expected to remain at the Park Hotel until at least Monday for a hearing as he tries to overturn the Australian government’s decision to revoke his visa.
Despite the escalation of Djokovic’s case, Tennis Australia and Tilley have not spoken publicly since Djokovic was detained at the airport after his visa was revoked.
Earlier in the day, Djokovic found support from his peers in both surprising and unsurprising places. Nick Kyrgios, who has made many critical comments about Djokovic in the past, called on people to «do a better job» when discussing Djokovic’s situation. «Look, I definitely believe in taking action, I’ve been vaccinated because of others and my mom’s health, but the way we’re handling Novak’s situation is really bad. Like these memes and headlines, this is one of our great heroes but ultimately a human being,» Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
Jon Isner also offered to support Djokovic on Twitter in turn. Isner, a member of the Serbian co-founder of the ATP, bemoaned the treatment Djokovic is receiving. «What Novak is going through now is not right. There is no justification for the treatment he is receiving. He followed the rules, was allowed to enter Australia and is now being held against his will. This is such a disgrace.»
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