No. 1 tennis star Novak Djokovic ordered to leave Australia despite COVID vaccine exemption

"Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders," the Australian prime minister said.

Updated: January 5, 2022 - 5:40pm

The world's highest-ranking tennis player, Novak Djokovic, was denied entry into Australia despite being granted a COVID-19 vaccine medical exemption to play in the Australian Open.

All visitors to Australia are required to receive the COVID vaccine, but Djokovic stated Tuesday that he had received an exemption to go. 

The Australian Border Force wrote in a press release Thursday local time that "Mr 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."

The agency added that the serbian tennis star "had access to his phone," likely in response to claims that Djokovic was banned from using his phone in the airport as he waited to learn if he would be allowed into the country.

Djokovic's father, Srdjan Djokovic said his son was placed in a room alone under police guard.

"Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted shortly after the news broke. "Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant."

The world's top tennis player is now seeking an injunction to prevent deportation, Reuters reported. He is currently on his way to a Melbourne hotel. 

Three other players who had successfully arrived in Australia used the same visa and paperwork as Djokovic, according to Reuters.

The event stirred high level protest from Serbia. "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," Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stated.

Djokovic is the Australian Open defending companion, having won the tournament nine times.