Novak Djokovic facing anxious wait over Australia visa appeal
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Nick Kyrgios has criticised the handling of Novak Djokovic’s medical exemption in Australia. The world No 1 announced he was flying to Melbourne to play the Australian Open after receiving “an exemption permission” but had his visa cancelled on arrival after an overnight stand-off with border officials. Djokovic is now in a quarantine hotel awaiting the resumption of his appeal hearing on Monday.
Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he was flying Down Under for the Australian Open after receiving “an exemption permission”, with Tennis Australia later confirming the No 1 had been granted a medical exemption “following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.”
But Australian border officials found an “issue” with the nine-time Aussie Open champion’s visa while he was in the air, as a member of his team had reportedly applied for the “wrong type” of visa which didn’t cover medical exemptions.
When Djokovic landed in Melbourne late on Wednesday, he was taken to an airport room and questioned by border officials overnight.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion tried to enter the country on the basis that he had recovered from a Covid-19 infection in the last six months, the grounds for his medical exemption, but according to The Age this was rejected by Australian Border Force.
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Djokovic was said to have presented “minimal” evidence for his exemption, supported by just one doctor, and was unable to provide more proof when asked by both border officials and the Victorian government.
Early on Thursday morning, it was announced that the Serb’s visa had been cancelled, as border officials said: “The ABF can confirm 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 34-year-old’s lawyers then appealed the decision, and Djokovic is now staying in a quarantine hotel in Melbourne awaiting the resumption of the hearing on Monday morning, but is said to be without his personal possessions which are still at Tullamarine Airport.
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The situation has proven controversial, as the world No 1 sparked an outcry in Australia when initially announcing his medical exemption.
Players including Rafael Nadal have stressed the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent such issues, while the likes of Daniil Medvedev simply thought that, if the exemption was not valid, it was fair to send Djokovic and any player in his situation home.
Even Boris Johnson has addressed the matter, saying: “I share very strongly the view of the Australian authorities that it’s a very good idea to get vaccinated.”
But Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has now stood up for the 86-time tour title winner, addressing the situation for the first time.
The 26-year-old has previously criticised Djokovic, calling him a “strange cat” and saying he “just can’t stand him”, but has empathised with the world No 1 over his visa issues and reminded the public that he is “human”.
“Look I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mums health, but how we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad,” the current world No 93 wrote on Twitter.
“Like these memes, headlines, this is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic continues to await his fate in Melbourne’s Park Hotel, having been denied a request to continue his quarantine in a private rented apartment with the rest of his team.
Judge Anthony Kelly has given the Serb’s lawyers until 2pm on Saturday to file all of their evidence and submissions to reinstate Djokovic’s visa and allow him into the country with the medical exemption granted by Tennis Australia.
The Home Affairs Minister’s team has until 8pm on Sunday to file their own submissions.
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