News that Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has re-cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa has once again made headlines around the world.
Despite polls indicating a vast majority of Australians support the decision to send the world number one packing, it is proving far more controversial in the wider world, and on social media.
Controversial fellow tennis player Tennys Sandgren, who won’t be at the Australian Open after refusing to be vaccinated or apply for a medical exemption, has once again come out in support of Djokovic, describing the government’s treatment of the champion as ‘a humiliation ritual’.
This is a humiliation ritual at this point
An example must be made
The docile were feeling uncomfortable
— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) January 14, 2022
Also in Djokovic’s court is Ukrainian tennis player Illya Marchenko, who lost in the first round of qualifying for the grand slam.
“Rules are rules” they say, then lose at their own court. Then find a way to cancel his visa anyway. So what rules were they referring to in the first place? Oh, I forgot, elections soon. Stay strong @DjokerNole
— Illya Marchenko (@imarchello) January 14, 2022
While former player Janko Tipsarevic also blasted the handling of the situation.
Toxic Shame on each and everyone involved in this process… pic.twitter.com/dReFRs4Dpl
— Janko Tipsarevic (@TipsarevicJanko) January 14, 2022
Not all of his fellow players have come out in support of the world number one, however. Long-time rival and friend Andy Murray described the situation as ‘unfortunate’ following his semi-final win at the Sydney Tennis Classic, while former women’s top seed Justin Henin has urged Djokovic to retreat.
“I think it’s the best thing he doesn’t play at the moment,” Henin said.
“When something is so complicated, I don’t say that Djokovic doesn’t have to fight, because he thought it was the right thing to do, but I think now it’s been proved that so many Australian people don’t want him to play.
“So maybe it’s better for everyone, for tennis, for the tournament, and maybe for him, that he doesn’t play the tournament.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas has also taken a thinly-veiled swipe at Djokovic in an interview with World Is One News India, saying his vaccination stance ‘makes the majority look like they’re fools’.
#Exclusive | "Djokovic has been playing by his own rules and has risked missing out in the Australian open" says World No. 4 @steftsitsipas (Stefanos Tsitsipas) to WION's @DiggySinghDeo, as they talk about the controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic.@redbull @redbullindia pic.twitter.com/wH6M52hVY6
— WION (@WIONews) January 13, 2022
Respected tennis coach Darren Cahill has also lamented the deportation, saying neither Djokovic nor the government have come out looking good.
No. Not at all. Fault lies everywhere here. It's been a mess. Novak, TA, Vic Gov, Federal Gov. It should've been a hard rule entering this country considering what the folks have been thru. Get vaccinated and come play the AO, or if not maybe see you in 23'. No wiggle room https://t.co/CzabtLGnMW
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) January 14, 2022
Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker also weighed in against Djokovic, telling the BBC his one-time charge ‘has to make some changes’
“My opinion would be: Novak, try to realise that it will be easier for you if you are vaccinated. Whether he will do that, I don’t know,” Becker said.
“It was to be expected that the Australian government would not take the ignominy of losing the case regarding the immigration proceedings against Novak Djokovic lying down and would strike back with a more forceful return.
“Any government is stronger than a single individual. That applies to all people and to Novak Djokovic too.
“He has to pay the bill all by himself. I hope the international media here will take a close look at who is responsible for all the mistakes.”
Politicians have also added their weight to the saga, with United Australia Party head Craig Kelly, as expected, siding with Djokovic.
“I stand with everyone who has been the victim of mandates, medical segregation & discrimination,” Kelly posted to Twitter.
I stand with @DjokerNole
I stand with everyone who has been the victim of mandates, medical segregation & discrimination
I stand with everyone who has been a victim of police brutality when standing up for medical freedom
UNITED WE STAND
SEE YOU THIS SATURDAY MORNING
— Craig Kelly MP (@CraigKellyMP) January 14, 2022
While Greens senator Nick McKim didn’t come out in support of Djokovic, he did slam the visa cancellation as ‘capricious, arbitrary and politically motivated’.
If the Djokovic decision looks capricious, arbitrary and politically motivated, that’s because it is. The Migration Act allows for this because it was designed so refugees lives could be destroyed for political purposes. It must be amended to provide fairness and natural justice
— Nick McKim (@NickMcKim) January 14, 2022
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was also scathing of the government.
What a surprise! Morrison’s govt cancels #Djokovic’s visa to win the weekend media cycle—showing us all how hairy chested he is. Why on earth did they issue the visa in the first place? One big political distraction from empty shelves & the national shortage of boosters & RATs. https://t.co/SoHuI1Cfwe
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) January 14, 2022
Among journalists, the move has had the rare consequence of uniting long-time combatants NewsCorp and the ABC, with journalists Leigh Sales (ABC) and Sophie Elsworth (NewsCorp) both pondering the government’s claim that allowing Djokovic in is a public health risk.
Djokovic visa cancelled on the grounds of “public interest” relating to “health” and “good order”.
1. With covid cases in the hundreds of thousands, how can it be “health”?
2. How can one person whose job is hitting a ball with a racquet be a threat to civic “order”?
— Leigh Sales (@leighsales) January 14, 2022
— Sophie Elsworth (@sophieelsworth) January 14, 2022
Internationally, the news has even reached legendary actress Mia Farrow, who tweeted her condemnation for Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic is a great tennis player but he lied & worse he knowingly exposed people to covid. Had it with him & every other arrogant, entitled person. They’re all dangerous in one way or other
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) January 14, 2022
Piers Morgan was even more scathing, saying the situation was an example of the rich and powerful seeking – and usually getting – preferential treatment.
Massive news week with Boris Johnson, Novak Djokovic and Prince Andrew.
None of them think rules that the public have to abide by should apply to them. BIG mistake.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 14, 2022
Tennis journalist and long-time critic of Djokovic Ben Rothenberg summed up what most of us are thinking:
(Periodic and important reminder that Djokovic could have avoided all this rigamarole by simply getting vaccinated like 97%+ of his tennis player peers have.)
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 14, 2022