Scandal on the court: Djokovic gets deported from AO

Alexandra Wagner, Staff Writer

Thirty-Four-year-old Novak Djokovic, the top tennis player on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) singles ratings, has recently taken the tennis phrase “see you in court” to another level. Known as one of the “Big Three” with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the Serbian is one of the world’s best tennis players, holding 86 ATP titles, twenty Grand Slam titles and a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Despite his successes and devotion to the sport, the charismatic tennis champion has taken too many liberties regarding COVID-19 policies around the world, ultimately causing him to be denied entrance to Australia for three years and to lose a record-breaking ATP title.

According to CNN, in November 2021, Djokovic was initially granted a temporary visa to Australia. The Australian Health Minister then wrote to the Australian Open Tournament Director and the Tennis Australia CEO saying a COVID-19 infection in the past six months without full vaccination would not warrant quarantine-free entry to Australia. That is, of course, unless the player were to submit a doctor’s letter to Tennis Australia. Due to this requirement, Djokovic filed for a medical exemption based on his alleged recent COVID-19 diagnosis. Tennis Australia approved the medical exemption to allow participation in the Australian Open. At the time, his admission to the country was temporarily protected.

However, thanks to social media, Djokovic’s credibility declined shortly after the exemption. Videos and images posted on his Instagram surfaced a week before entering Australia that showed the tennis star training in Spain for the upcoming tournament. These images directly conflicted with Djokovic’s assurance that he had not traveled for the past fourteen days when he entered Australia to compete.

His case was not helped by the fact that he was photographed at a tennis awards ceremony in Belgrade, all attendees unmasked, after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 a day prior to the mid-December event. Djokovic’s behavior days before arrival in Melbourne made its way to Australian customs officials, and, on January 6, the tennis player’s visa was revoked by the Australian government. He was then taken to a temporary detention facility.

On January 10, Djokovic’s hearing commenced. Despite confirmation by the Prime Minister of Australia that his COVID-19 diagnosis did not exempt him from quarantine-free entry, the judge reinstated his visa, allowing him to play in the Australian Open. Shortly after the trial, however, more inconsistencies arose regarding the authenticity of Djokovic’s positive PCR test results. 

On January 14, Australia’s immigration minister revoked Djokovic’s visa a second time, sending him back to the immigration holding facility before his appeal in the Australian Federal Court system. The Serbian ultimately lost this appeal and was subsequently deported from the country for three years. Djokovic will not have a chance to play in the Australian Open until at least 2025. 

Since Djokovic’s deportation, Nadal has made a tremendous comeback after 

extensive foot surgeries. After being down two sets in a five-hour-and-24-minute match 

against Daniil Medvedev, Nadal has surpassed both Djokovic and Federer with their twenty Grand Slam titles to become the first male tennis player to win 21 Grand Slams.

Not only did Djokovic give up this opportunity to make tennis history, but he is risking losing his number-one slot as an ATP singles player to Medvedev, who trails a mere 890 points behind Djokovic. For reference, winners of Grand Slams earn 2000 points, while runners-up earn 1200. With Medvedev’s frequency of making it to the finals in ATP tournaments, there is a high likelihood he will attain the number-one ranking in the next few tournaments.

          Five months ago, Greg Rusedski, analyst and former world number-four tennis player, looked at the trajectory of significant tennis players’ careers such as Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Williams. 

“I’d expect Djokovic to at least be [around for] three or four [more] years,” he said. “Nadal, Federer, Serena – question mark.” 

Considering this information and his deportation, it may be that Djokovic will not go beyond his Australian Open nine-title record after his last participation in the tournament in 2021. 

Not only has this scandal threatened Djokovic’s credibility, public image and ATP ranking, Australians (and others around the world) are enraged by the special treatment Djokovic has received. Djokovic’s case was resolved quickly, and activists are disturbed by Australia’s negligence of detainees in immigration hotels with revoked visas who have been in custody for years. Time reports that a 24-year-old man detained at the same Park Hotel in Melbourne where Djokovic stayed for less than five days has been at the hotel since he was 15-years-old–a total of nine years.

Ultimately, Djokovic’s stubbornness in the past two months is what has tarnished his reputation as a world-renowned tennis player. His hard-court domination of the Australian Open has been indisputably jeopardized, leaving a large opening for the bright future of tennis. With currently rising champions Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipa and Alexander Zverev as well as newer, promising athletes Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Lorenzo Musetti and Jannik Sinner, upcoming matches are about to get quite a bit more interesting. 

The sport of tennis is no longer a drill; technology such as smart rackets and digital courts are allowing players to analyze their performance, providing players with every advantage to better their game. Novak Djokovic’s deportation has opened the door for an increase in tennis rivalries that are no longer baseline, and the future of tennis has fans only growing in their love for the sport.