Tennis – Australisches Roulette in Novak Djokovic

The Novak Djokovic case is entering the next round. After the announced objection by his lawyers against the renewed cancellation of his visa for Australia, a hearing before the federal court on Sunday should now clarify whether the Serb will participate in the Australian Open, which begins on Monday. Judge Anthony Kelly made the decision at a hearing on Friday. Defending champion Djokovic is still in the draw and is due to play for the first time on Monday.

Until then, Djokovic cannot be deported. A hearing at the immigration authorities is also scheduled for the world number one on Saturday at 8 a.m. local time. He can then prepare the court date on Sunday with his lawyers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Until then, he does not have to be in detention pending deportation. The unvaccinated Djokovic’s visa had previously been invalidated a second time in a personal decision by Immigration Secretary Alex Hawke. This was well justified and “in the public interest,” the minister said. Djokovic is not vaccinated against the coronavirus and is therefore a controversial person in the country that has had tough rules since the beginning of the pandemic.

Djokovic’s lawyer Nicholas Wood immediately announced an appeal against the decision and urged not to waste any time. “Every minute before the tournament starts on Monday is precious,” Wood said at the hearing before Justice Anthony Kelly. At the same time, the lawyer criticized that the decision was “irrational” and disproportionate. Judge Kelly had already dealt with the case and ruled in favor of Djokovic on Monday due to a formal error by the authorities after the 34-year-old was initially refused entry to Melbourne.

Australians stand behind their minister

The Immigration Minister Hawke had previously announced his decision after four days. “Today I exercised my right to void Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa,” Hawke said in a statement, “on the basis that it is in the public interest to do so.” He did not take the decision lightly and carefully checked all the documents that the immigration authorities, the Australian border guard and Djokovic presented to him.

When it comes to its decision, however, the government knows that the vast majority of Australians are behind it: According to a survey by the media group News Corp, 83 percent of those surveyed support the attempt to expel Djokovic from the country again. The vaccination rate in Australia is 91 percent, and many people are outraged about exceptions for the unvaccinated. They also had to massively restrict themselves during the pandemic when they had to endure the world’s longest lockdown. Recently, the number of newly infected people has risen sharply again.

Regardless, the Djokovic case is causing discussions around the world and even diplomatic tensions between Australia and Serbia. In addition, the global debate about rights for the unvaccinated picked up speed. Djokovic is considered a vaccination skeptic. The initial reactions from the Serbian media reflect the heated mood. “It’s unbelievable what the (Australian) minister gives as a reason: public health and the common good. And that in a country that has 150,000 new infections every day!” wrote “telegraf.rs” and found: “That’s crazy!”. “The persecution of Novak,” wrote “blic.rs.” And “informer.rs” even saw a cartoon in an Australian newspaper as evidence of “lynch mood”.

Djokovic also received support from the Serbian President. “The attacks and pressure on Novak Djokovic, a citizen of Serbia, are incomprehensible to me,” said Aleksandar Vucic in a speech he published on Instagram on Friday. He also complained about the “pressure that Serbia is exposed to”. But the Serbs were “not able to take away their dignity and pride” in their history. The President concluded his speech with the words: “Long live Serbia! Novak, Serbia is with you!”

Organizers are silent

So far, the organizers of the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, have not felt the need to react. In the draw on the website, defending champion Djokovic is also still listed as number 1 at the top. One will probably wait until Djokovic has exhausted all legal remedies. If the decision is upheld, then number 5 seeded Russian Andrei Rublev will take Djokovic’s place and a lucky loser from qualifying will move up into the field. In the hunt for the major record of 21 titles, only Rafael Nadal remained in the field.

Djokovic’s non-appearance could also have lasting effects on the world rankings: If Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev win the tournament, “Djoker” would lose the number 1 position in the ATP ranking. Regardless of the outcome of the Melbourne saga, the rest of the tennis year will also be a challenge for Djokovic if he remains unvaccinated. At least it is not unlikely that other tennis organizers will follow Australia’s example and only allow vaccinated players. (apa)

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