Tennis star Djokovic held in Australia immigration facility over visa, vaccine exemption dispute

The nine-time Australian Open champ has been having an unusually difficult time entering the country to compete in an upcoming tournamentt

Updated: January 6, 2022 - 8:00am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The world's No. 1 tennis player spent a day "captive" in a Melbourne hotel room waiting for a court's decision on the prospect of his deportation from Australia due to an issue with his visa. 

Novak Djokovic has been struggling to enter Australia to compete in the Australian Open, which will be held later this month. Following his arrival in the country on Wednesday, the Australian Border Force canceled his visa after rejecting evidence that supported a medical exemption for the player from the country's stringent COVID-19 vaccine policy. 

Djokovic's medical exemption, which was reviewed by two independent panels of experts before being approved, was apparently enough to grant the Serbian star permission to play in the Grand Slam tournament, but not enough to allow him to enter the country.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who spoke disapprovingly about Djokovic's exemption prior to the star's arrival, said of the issue, "The rule is very clear, you need to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced.

The Australian state of Victoria, which include the city of Melbourne, reportedly okayed Djokovic's exemption

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says he has spoken to the player and has asked the Australian government to allow him to move to a house he has rented so that he can be moved from a hotel that is used primarily to house refugees and asylum seekers. 

Vucic added that he believes an unusually harsh standard is being applied to Djokovic. "I’m afraid that this overkill will continue. When you can’t beat someone, then you do such things," he said. 

Djokovic's father, Srdjan Djokovic, offered an update on his son to a Russian news agency.

"I have no idea what's going on. They're holding my son captive for five hours. His is a fight for the libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world! If they don't let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street. This is a fight for everyone," he said.