Novak Djokovic arrived in Australia just before midnight. This morning his visa was cancelled.

Hours after arriving on Australian soil, tennis World No.1 Novak Djokovic is potentially heading home before he even steps foot outside Melbourne airport's international terminal. 

After months of uncertainty as to whether the 34-year-old would be allowed into the country for the 2022 Australian Open due to his undisclosed vaccination-status, the Serbian champion announced on Tuesday night he was on his way Down Under after receiving an exemption. 

"I've spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I'm heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let's go 2022," he wrote.

However, the announcement has been controversial to say the least, with the decision labelled "f***ing disgraceful", "a rort" and a "farcical". 

He arrived in Melbourne just before midnight on Wednesday, but this morning it's being reported Djokovic's visa has been cancelled by the federal government after he spent the evening being questioned by Border Force officials in a room at the terminal.

Watch: Novak Djokovic Vs Nick Kyrgios. Post continues below.

The Age reports his lawyer is challenging the decision, and it's unclear if the tennis star will remain in the country as they attempt to overturn the decision. 

If he does, it's likely he'll be placed in government accommodation or Victorian hotel quarantine while he waits.

Djokovic’s father Srdjan Djokovic told Serbian media outlet B92 Djokovic was in a room "where no one can enter," while his coach Goran Ivanisevic posted from the airport at 5am with the caption, "not the most usual trip down under."


So, let's rewind. How did we get here?

Tennis Australia confirmed last year that all tennis players taking part in the 2022 Australian Open would need to be fully vaccinated to participate in the tournament.

Djokovic has continually refused to make his vaccination status public. But in April 2020, the tennis star did reveal that he was opposed to mandatory jabs.

"Personally I am not pro-vaccines. I would not like it for someone to compel me to be vaccinated so I can travel."

Djokovic's father, Srdjan, also spoke about Djokovic's decision, likening Australia's vaccine restrictions to "blackmail".


Speaking on Serbian television in late November 2021, Srdjan said: "I really don't know if that [coming to Australia] will happen. Probably not under these conditions, with this blackmail and when it's done that way." Srdjan also defended his 34-year-old son's "exclusive and personal right" to be vaccinated or not, suggesting even he did not know if Djokovic had received the jab.

Image: Getty. 

As well as Tennis Australia's mandate, the Victorian Government announced that only fully vaccinated players, fans and staff would be allowed into Melbourne Park, which is home to the Australian Open Grand Slam.

"Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend - spectators, players, officials, staff - is expected to be fully vaccinated. They're the rules," Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino said during a press conference. 

"Medical exemptions are just that: it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said in early October 2021: "Those (grand slam) titles won't protect you either. The notion of you getting in here without being vaccinated I think is very, very low."

The premier also said: "All the people who are watching the tennis at the Australian Open, they’re going to be double-vaxxed, all the people that work there are going to be double-vaxxed. It stands to reason that if you want to get into the country to be part of that tournament, then you should be double-vaxxed as well."


Image: Getty. 

Ok... then how and why did Djokovic receive an exemption?

As to how Tennis Australia came to the decision to grant an exemption, here's what they've had to say.

Tennis Australia released a statement on Tuesday night saying Djokovic had applied for an exemption which was granted, following "a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts".

The review was overseen by two independent panels: the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.

"The applications were reviewed and approved only in line with ATAGI guidelines," Tennis Australia's statement read.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said everyone going to the Australian Open, i.e. players, fans and staff, must be fully vaccinated to attend or have a legitimate reason to obtain an exemption.

Tiley noted on Wednesday morning that 26 players and their primary support staff in total applied for exemptions. Only a "handful" of them were successful.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley with Novak Djokovic. Image: Getty. 


So what can be considered a 'legitimate reason' for exemption?

Due to privacy laws, players who chose to request an exemption are not obliged to reveal so publicly. It is likely the fact that Djokovic's potential 'anti-vax' status is so highly publicised, he felt the need to share he had received an exemption to play. The tennis player has not detailed the specifics of his exemption, however. 

The ATAGI guidelines state exemptions can be given for the following reasons:

  • Those with acute medical conditions, including undergoing major surgery.
  • Those who have had COVID-19 in the past six months.
  • Those who have experienced a serious adverse event attributed to a previous COVID vaccine dose.
  • A non-medical exemption includes a foreign national being deemed "in the national interest" or having "critical skills".

Image: Getty. 


Ultimately, regardless of the reason for exemption, the decision has been met with widespread criticism.

Former Australian Medical Association Vice President Stephen Parnis labelled it "appalling". 

"I don't care how good a tennis player he is. If he's refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn't be allowed in," he wrote on Twitter. "If this exemption is true, it sends an appalling message to millions seeking to reduce #COVID19Aus risk to themselves & others. #Vaccination shows respect, Novak."

Australians haven't been shy in their reactions to Djokovic's exemption...

Whether it's members of the general public, sports commentators, journalists, reporters or television presenters, the overall response can be summed up perfectly via journo Samantha Lewis' tweet: "This is an obscene decision and organisers should be f***ing ashamed of themselves."

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud: In this episode, the ladies discuss the men’s world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic. Here’s why Djokovic is making Mia "pufferfish". Post continues after audio.

Ex-AFL player Corey McKernan said: "People with loved ones who are dying / some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states. You tell people they can't go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you're world number one you get a pass? F***ing disgrace."

On Sunrise, reporter Nick McCallum noted: "Who knew that Novak Djokovic has 20 grand slam titles, nine Australian Opens, has been on the circuit since 2003, and no one knew he had a serious medical issue... of course there's a large level of cynicism here." 


So why the backflip? Has the government changed their mind?

There are reports Djokovic didn't have adequate documentation to prove the reason for his exemption when he was met on the tarmac by Australian Border Force officials.

According to The Agethe Victorian government rejected a late-night request to sponsor Djokovic's visa as he was in the air on the way to Melbourne.

Acting Victorian Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirmed as such in a late-night tweet that read, "The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.

"We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam."

This story is still unfolding, and we're yet to hear from Djokovic himself. 

The Australian Open is due to start on Monday January 17. 

This post was originally published on January 5, and updated with new information on January 6.

- With AAP.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.