Novak Djokovic visa: 'Australia doesn't deserve a grand slam' - how the world reacted

Some reacted with anger at Australian officials – while others took the chance to laugh at the world No 1 - EPA/TWITTER
Some reacted with anger at Australian officials – while others took the chance to laugh at the world No 1 - EPA/TWITTER

Novak Djokovic is set to leave Australia on Thursday after he was dramatically denied entry to the country, a move which has dashed his hopes of defending the Australian Open title this month.

The decision to cancel Djokovic's visa follows an outcry in Australia after he was granted a controversial “medical exemption” by the Australian Open organisers, and the announcement on Thursday that the world No 1 is set to be deported has provoked fury and ridicule.

Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, insisted on Thursday morning that Djokovic had not been "singled out" for scrutiny but had merely failed to provide sufficient proof to receive a medical exemption to enter the country.

Mr Morrison said: "Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders."

Djokovic, who has said he is “opposed to vaccination”, has never declared whether he has been vaccinated against Covid, a requirement to enter Australia.

Mr Morrison reacted on Twitter on Thursday, saying that "no one is above" Australia's border rules.

In a statement, Australia's Border Force said: "Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.

"Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry, or who have had their visa cancelled, will be detained and removed from Australia."

'Australia doesn't deserve to host a grand slam'

In the tennis world, Djokovic's exemption had provoked a backlash and the cancelling of his visa only caused more confusion ahead of the start of the Australian Open on Jan 17.

Some were angry that tennis is being used as a political tool.

US player Tennys Sandgren said: "Just to be crystal clear here, two separate medical boards approved his exemption. And politicians are stopping it. Australia doesn't deserve to host a grand slam."

Sergiy Stakhovsky, the Ukrainian player, wrote on Twitter: "When next time somebody will tell you 'Sports is not interfering with politics' you remember the 6Jan2022 when purely political 'ego' is not allowing best tennis player in the world to enter the country to which ... 'governmental institutions' granted entry."

Paul McNamee, the former chief executive of the Australian Open, said: "For those asking, all players go through the same visa process overseen by Tennis Australia to play the Australian Open (as non Australians are currently not able to enter). So it beggars belief that Djokovic is the only player that has had his visa granted and then rescinded."

Djokovic also found support from the US, where popular Fox News host Laura Ingraham accused Australia of becoming a "police state", while Nigel Farage accused Australia of being a "banana republic".

'The whole of Serbia is with him'

The world No 1's treatment has provoked anger in his native Serbia as the incident now threatens to become a diplomatic crisis.

Serbia's president, Aleksander Vucic, said "our Novak" was a victim of "harassment" and said "the whole of Serbia" supported him.

He said: "I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world's best tennis player is brought to an end immediately.

"In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice. Novak is strong, as we all know."

Djokovic's father, Srdjan, said his son had been detained in a room at the airport and guarded by police.

"This is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world," he said in a statement released to the media.

'Above all, it is incredibly funny'

Aside from the anger at the farcical situation created by Australian officials, many people took the opportunity to laugh at a very public comeuppance for an anti-vaxxer.

Ryanair tweeted a mock-up review of Djokovic's visa as if by a tennis line judge – and then pitched to fly him home:

Djokovic is not the world's most popular sport star at the best of times and many revelled in the schadenfreude:

Sebastián Torok, an Argentina-based sports writer, suggested Djokovic's rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal might have had something to do with the decision:

Some people found joy in Djokovic's special exemption being taken away:

Emma Kennedy, the English actress and Celebrity MasterChef champion, said she hoped there was proof of Djokovic's exit:

Meanwhile, other Twitter users responded with predictable levels of mickey-taking:

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