Unvaccinated Novak Djokovic denied entry to Australia ahead of Australian Open

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Novak Djokovic was reportedly denied entry to Australia, the result of a visa mix-up that could prevent the world’s top tennis player from competing at the Australian Open, which begins a week from Monday.

Djokovic is unvaccinated, but recently received a medical exemption to play. That ruling was met by significant backlash, including from Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who voiced his opposition to Djokovic entering the country in no uncertain terms.

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“If medical exemptions had been provided by medical professionals and that's been furnished to [Djokovic] as a provision for him to get on that plane, well, that will have to stack up when he arrives in Australia," expressed Morrison via John Pye of the Associated Press. “If that evidence is insufficient, then he won't be treated any different to anyone else and he'll be on the next plane home."

Of the 26 players who sought medical exemptions, tournament director Craig Tiley says only about five were granted. Players can bypass the Open’s vaccine requirements if they’ve been infected by COVID in the past six months. It’s unclear if that’s the case for Djokovic, who had the virus in June of 2020.

The Times of London reported Wednesday that Djokovic was stopped at border control after mistakenly requesting a visa that doesn’t apply to travelers already granted medical exemption from the vaccine. The 34-year-old Serbian has remained firm in his anti-vax stance throughout the pandemic, dismissing government mandates as “propaganda” while continuing to exercise his “freedom of choice.”

Now, it looks like he’ll have to choose between getting vaccinated or missing an opportunity to win his record 21st grand slam, a mark he currently shares with contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. A nine-time Australian Open champion, Djokovic has won in Melbourne each of the last three years.

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