Novak Djokovic lands in Serbia after being deported from Australia – The Denver Post
BELGRADE, Serbia – Novak Djokovic could be banned from attending the French Open later this year because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, a possibility that has raised the bets for the tennis star by just hours after he was expelled from Australia and prevented from defending his Australian Open office.
A plane carrying the No. 1 ranked tennis player landed in his home country of Serbia on Monday, closing at least the first chapter in a dizzying drama that has resonated in the world of elite sports, Australia’s pandemic politics and the polarizing debate over coronavirus photographs.
Djokovic is expected to receive a heroic welcome from his countrymen, many of whom claim he has been treated unfairly in Australia. But only a handful of fans waved Serbian flags to greet him at the airport in the capital Belgrade.
At the same time, clouds gather about what happens next for players: French officials say a new law requiring vaccinations in sports venues will make no exception. Much could change between now and the start of the French Open, the next Grand Slam, at the end of May. But that raises the possibility that the recent story in Australia will be more than just a blip but is an ongoing challenge for the unvaccinated athlete, who is increasingly seen as a hero by the anti-vaccination movement.
Djokovic has argued he is exempt from Australia’s strict vaccination rules because he recently recovered from COVID-19. But when he arrived in the country, Australian authorities said the exemption was invalid. They eventually cited public concern and revoked his visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccination sentiment and that his expulsion was necessary. to keep Australians safe.
When he flew home from Australia, a member of the French National Assembly added a new twist. Christophe Castaner said a new law that would exclude the unvaccinated from sports venues, restaurants and other public places would apply to anyone wanting to play at the French Open – a reversal of plans to create a “bubble” around the tournament.
The French sport ministry said on Monday once the new law is enacted, there will be no exceptions until further notice.
Now, a warm welcome awaits Djokovic, who has massive support in his native Serbia, where his closest family lives. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top tennis star and urged him to return home.
“God bless you Novak,” reads one of the banners held by fans at the airport as he bypassed passport control and customs and was then driven to the apartment by his brother Djordje his in Belgrade.
The legal battle over whether Djokovic received a valid exemption from the vaccine rules that allowed him to play at the Australian Open ended on Sunday with his expulsion.
Vaccination amid the pandemic is a requirement for anyone at the Australian Open, which begins Monday in Melbourne. Djokovic has won nine titles there before. He had hoped this year to win his 21st Grand Slam singles title there, breaking the record he shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in men’s tennis history. Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, but Nadal is playing.
More than 95% of the top 100 men and women in the respective rankings of their travels have been vaccinated. At least two other men – American Tennys Sandgren and French Pierre-Hugues Herbert – skipped the first major tournament of the year due to vaccine requirements.
Djokovic’s attempt to get a medical exemption for not being vaccinated has sparked fury in Australia, where cities and international travel bans are strictly enforced to try to control the spread of the virus. spread of the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
Djokovic tested positive in Belgrade on December 16, but received the results late on December 17, he said, and canceled all of his commitments except for a lengthy interview with the newspaper. L’Equipe the next day. He later described this as “a mistake” of judgment.
Asked if Djokovic would face any punishment for isolating him while infected when he returned to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country was not in a state of affairs. emergency state.
Djokovic has almost a symbolic status in Serbia, where the president called the Australian hearing “a farce with a lot of lies.”
“Novak, welcome home, you know that we are all supporting you here,” said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident. “They can take away your visa, but they can’t take away your Serbian pride.”
Associated Press writers Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.
By DARKO BANDIC and DUSAN STOJANOVIC
https://www.denverpost.com/2022/01/17/novak-djokovic-lands-serbia/ Novak Djokovic lands in Serbia after being deported from Australia – The Denver Post