Scott Morrison has warned world No.1 Novak Djokovic that his medical exemption to enter Australia will be considered like any other traveler ahead of his title defense in Melbourne
It’s fitting for Novak Djokovic to be the center of attention at the Australian Open, but the Serbian’s vaccine status against Covid-19 has put him in the spotlight even more in 2022.
As nine-time champion Djokovic seeks to become the first Open Era player to win four Australian titles in a row, debate rages on whether the unvaccinated star should be allowed to defend his crown.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner – who will lead Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the list of major records with a 10th title in Melbourne – has always refused to disclose his vaccination status.
Players have been told they need to be doubly vaccinated against Covid-19, or be medically exempt from it, to compete this year. Djokovic confirmed he received an exemption from tournament organizers on Tuesday.
But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Djokovic ahead of his arrival in the country, insisting he could be quickly returned unless his exemption withstands scrutiny.
“My view is that anyone seeking entry into Australia must comply with our border requirements,” the Australian leader said on Wednesday.
“Now Novak Djokovic, when he arrives in Australia he must if he is not vaccinated, must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons in order to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully vaccinated travelers.
“We are therefore awaiting his presentation and the evidence he provides us to support this.
“If that evidence is insufficient, then he will not be treated any differently from the others and he will be on the next plane back.
“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic. None at all.”
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It’s a tough stance that many Australians will appreciate given the fury that has erupted around the Djokovic debacle, mostly alluding to the suggestion that celebrities are being treated differently from ordinary citizens.
‘Nole’ has legions of fans eager to see him extend his record to nine Australian Open titles, but his defense comes at a time when being seen giving some special treatment could have implications large scope.
Details of Djokovic’s medical exemption remain unknown, and Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said on Wednesday the player “does not have to reveal any personal or medical information.”
Fellow pro Tennys Sandgren – who is not vaccinated – did not request a medical exemption as he did not meet any of the criteria for a pass to play in Melbourne.
When tagged by American player Tommy Paul in an Instagram post about Djokovic on a trip to Australia, Sandgren replied that he did not boast “of quite the same appeal. [influence]. ”
That’s not to rule out the possibility that Djokovic may have a real excuse, of course, and Morrison stressed that this would have to be proven on arrival.
“There are other instances – there have been a number of them over the past two years – where people have benefited from these exemptions and have the appropriate evidence to support their claim under these circumstances,” Morrison said.
“So the circumstance is not unique. The question is whether he has sufficient evidence to support that he would qualify for the exemption.”
Former Australian pro Sam Groth targeted Djokovic’s ‘dumb’ actions in a recent Corp News column and wrote that the tennis icon “laughs at the Victorians” while attending this year’s tournament.
” Just look at the shit storm he created, “said Groth.” It’s disrespectful to anyone who’s been through hell the past two years.
“He was here last year to lift the trophy and pay tribute to what the Victorians in particular had endured. He played in empty stadiums during the instant lockdown. His announcement on Tuesday was muffled. He should know better.”
The 2022 Australian Open is scheduled to start on January 17, with the men’s final scheduled to take place on January 30.