‘Australia doesn’t deserve to host a grand slam’: Tennis world reacts to Djokovic’s rejection

Novak Djokovic’s remarkable rejection at the Australian border has already sparked great debate among the tennis community, with one fellow anti-vaccine player calling for Australia to lose its grand slam status.

Djokovic’s lawyers are challenging the decision made by Australian Border Force, but he will almost certainly be on his way back to Belgrade by Thursday night.

The extraordinary turnaround fuelled the fire that has been the Djokovic story, but he found a supporter in two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren.

“Just to be crystal clear here, two separate medical boards approved his exemption,” Sandgren wrote online.

“And politicians are stopping it. Australia doesn’t deserve to host a grand slam.”

Sandgren also mocked the Victorian government for not supporting Djokovic’s visa on Wednesday night.

“LOL trusting the science once again,” Sandgren wrote.

Sandgren, however, appears to be in the minority among his cohort.

Former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee was, like others, left stunned that Djokovic would be the only Australian Open participant so far to have his visa approved and then rejected.

“For those asking, all players go through the same visa process overseen by Tennis Australia to play the Australian Open (as non Australians are currently not able to enter). So it beggars belief that Djokovic is the only player that has had his visa granted and then rescinded,” McNamee said on Twitter.

On Wednesday, the former doubles champion said: “We need to remember one thing … even if you are angry, Novak Djokovic did not set the rules.”

Ukrainian veteran Sergiy Stakhovsky lamented the by-play than can happen between sport and politics.

“When next time somebody will tell you ‘Sports is not interfering with politics’ you remember the 6 Jan 2022 when purely political ‘ego’ is not allowing best tennis player in the world to enter the country to which they ‘governmental institutions’ granted entry,” Stakhovsky said on Twitter.

The 35-year-old last year was a supporter of Tennis Australia’s efforts to get the 2021 Australian Open off the ground in the middle of the pandemic, when players and officials were required to undertake hotel quarantine beforehand.

Several players offered cautious support for Djokovic’s entry into the country when asked about the news on Wednesday, and prominent New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg offered his view after the rejection news was revealed.

“Whatever happens as this unfolds here, this is completely Novak Djokovic’s fault for not getting the vaccine in the first place, which he had *months* to do,” Rothenberg wrote on Twitter.

“Best case scenario for everyone would have been a vaxxed (sic) Novak playing the #AusOpen with no drama. He chose against that.”

Reporter Sasa Ozmo, who has a close relationship with Djokovic, described the situation as “public humiliation”.

“You follow the rules set by the authorities of the country. You fly across the world to then be told by the same people who approved your application that you can’t enter, while being isolated in a room,” Ozmo wrote on Twitter.

“That’s not the way to treat anybody. Public humiliation.”

More to come

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