Australia to deport World No. 1 Tennis player

Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player, traveled all day Wednesday from Dubai to Australia, a journey that was supposed to begin his defense of the Australian Open singles championship.

On Thursday, he was told he would need to leave the country, following a 10-hour standoff with government officials at a Melbourne airport, where he was held in a room overnight over the validity of his visa and questions about the evidence supporting a medical exemption from a coronavirus vaccine. The exemption was supposed to allow Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam tournament champion and one of the biggest stars in sports, to compete in the Australian Open even though he has not been vaccinated.

Djokovic did not immediately leave the country and was reported to be planning a legal challenge to the ruling Thursday. A spokesman for the tennis star did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The chain of events represented a startling turnabout for Djokovic, who in a little more than 24 hours went from receiving special, last-minute permission to play in the Open, to boarding an intercontinental flight, to essentially being told by the prime minister of Australia that he was not welcome in the country.

The decision promises to become another flashpoint in the debate about vaccines and how the pandemic should be managed now, especially in Australia, where egalitarianism is considered a sacred principle — and where “the tennis,” as the Open is called, is also beloved by what often seems like an entire nation of sports fanatics. (New York Times)

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