Controversial tennis star Novak Djokovic has arrived in Melbourne amid apparent issues with his visa to enter the country and a flurry of doubt over his medical exemption to defend his Australian Open title.
Just minutes before the world No.1 landed, Victoria’s acting Sports Minister, Jaala Pulford, said the federal government had asked the state government to support Djokovic’s visa application.
“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam,” she said, on Twitter.
“We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
The Age reports that Border Force contacted the Victorian government after realising Djokovic’s team had submitted the wrong type of visa.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on Wednesday afternoon stressed that the federal government was responsible for enforcing border requirements.
“If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers,” she said, in a statement.
Djokovic granted Australian Open exemption
In roughly 24 hours since Djokovic announced he was on his way to Australia, Australian Open organisers have defended themselves from a furious local reaction and the Prime Minister has warned the star would be “on the next plane home” if his justifications didn’t stack up.
Djokovic has not revealed his vaccination status but in April last year said he was “opposed to vaccination”.
“I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said, in a live Facebook chat.
Tennis Australia said the exemption was granted following a “rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts”.
Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government attempted to calm public anger and confusion, insisting Djokovic had not been afforded any special treatment.
Tennis Australia said the exemption had been granted following a “rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts”.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said at a press conference this morning Djokovic was one of 26 applicants who applied for a medical exemption and one of a handful granted.
“The process has been very clear and we completely understand and empathise with first of all some people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements in the past around vaccination,” he said.
Mr Tiley said while Tennis Australia was not able to detail the reason Djokovic was given the exemption, he would be urging the tennis star to speak openly about it.