Novak Djokovic, the best male tennis player and his main vaccine skeptic, has had his visa canceled for the second time by the Australian government, where he had arrived last week hoping to defend his title at the Australian Open.
Here’s a look at how the stalemate unfolded:
A surprise exemption gave Djokovic an apparent chance to avoid Australia’s strict vaccination rules.
Djokovic has won the last three Australian Open men’s championships and a career-high nine. But he has come under scrutiny for his unscientific beliefs, including his support for a claim that positive emotions can purify toxic water or food, and he has avoided the coronavirus vaccine.
Last year, the Australian Open announced that participants in this month’s tournament would have to be fully vaccinated, as per the country’s entry requirements. Djokovic’s participation was considered unlikely until he announced on January 4 that he would play after receiving a bye. It was later learned that his exemption was based on a recent coronavirus infection.
The federal government stopped Djokovic at the border.
Djokovic was arrested at Melbourne Airport late on January 5 after flying from Spain via Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He was interrogated for hours at the airport before being sent to a quarantine hotel.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has come under fire for the government’s response to Covid-19, announced that Djokovic’s entry had been refused because he was not vaccinated. Federal officials said a previous coronavirus infection was not grounds for the vaccination waiver granted by Australian tennis officials and local authorities in Victoria, the state where the tournament is being held.
Djokovic, who was taken to a quarantine hotel while awaiting departure, immediately filed a lawsuit.
Djokovic won an appeal, but questions quickly arose.
On Monday, after Djokovic spent five days in a hotel for refugees and asylum seekers, a judge ruled he was treated unfairly at the airport, denied him the promised chance to contact his lawyers or officials the Australian Open and reinstated his visa.
But documents released as part of the legal proceedings have raised questions about Djokovic’s actions.
Records showed he took a coronavirus test at 1:05 p.m. on December 16 in Belgrade, Serbia, and received the positive result seven hours later. But social media posts showed he attended two public events the day he asked for his test, as well as a tennis event a day later in Belgrade, where he handed out awards to children. And Franck Ramella, a journalist with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe, wrote this week that when he conducted an interview with Djokovic on December 18, he was unaware that the athlete had just tested positive.
Questions also arose as to whether Djokovic made a false statement on his Australian entry form when he said he had not traveled overseas in the 14 days prior to his flight from Australia. ‘Spain. Social media posts showed him in Serbia on Christmas Day.
Djokovic admitted his mistakes.
In a statement on Wednesday, Djokovic said he was not yet aware he had tested positive when he attended the children’s event, and acknowledged he had made a poor decision not to not cancel the interview with the French journalist. He said a member of his support team made a “human error” in filling out his paperwork.
But the statement, which reads both as a belated plea for clemency and as an explanation for irresponsible behavior, may have come too late. By then, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was already seriously considering using his powers to cancel the visa for the second time.