With the possibility of a deportation order still hanging over his head, Novak Djokovic suited up Tuesday for a day of practice at Melbourne Park – with only members of his core team allowed in the facility – as the Serbian government held talks with the Australian government about the situation at hand.
According to the AP, the two governments agreed to keep in touch in regards to Djokovic’s visa situation (a judge on Monday overturned the Aussie government’s decision to cancel Djoko’s visa, allowing him to be freed from an immigration detention facility where he had spent most of the prior week) and to talk before a final call about whether to deport Djokovic is made. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has already said that any decision on whether to deport Djokovic wouldn’t be made on Tuesday, but on a later date.
An aerial photo taken of the tennis star showed him hard at work on Tuesday as he attempts to compensate for nearly a whole week of lost training.
They watched as he hit shots from behind the baseline and took feedback from his coach.
Video showed Djokovic hitting shots from behind the baseline, taking feedback from his coach, and stretching beside the court with a trainer on a sunny but mild summer afternoon.
Soon after, organizers released the seedings for the Australian Open tournament, and Djokovic was listed at No. 1 for the men’s singles draw.
Djokovic is hoping to compete in Melbourne’s Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, where he will be competing for what could be his 21st Grand Slam title. Should he succeed, Djoko would finally break the tie with Roger Federer (both players have a record 20 title wins to their name).
Aussie PM Scott Morrison and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić
Here’s the AP:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Serbian counterpart, Ana Brnabić, agreed in their telephone conversation to keep in touch over the disputed visa, Morrison’s office said.
“The PM explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morrison’s office said in a statement.
Brnabić asked Morrison to ensure Djokovic was treated with dignity, public broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia reported.
“The (Serbian) prime minister especially emphasized the importance of the conditions for training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, considering that Novak Djokovic was not allowed to train in the previous days,” RTS reported.
Further illustrating the depth of the international public backlash against the Australian government, even the AP acknowledged that the deportation drama has “polarized” public opinion and elicited “strong support” for the tennis star.
Meanwhile, Australian PM Morrison and his government are trying to shuffle the blame for the whole visa-cancellation debacle on to Australian Tennis. And unsurprisingly, ATP has pushed back. All the while, opposition ministers slammed Morrison’s government for making Australia look like a “joke” – no pun intended.
Morrison’s conservative government has blamed the debacle on Tennis Australia, which ministers accuse of misleading players about Australia’s vaccine requirements. But newspapers have reported that Tennis Australia had pleaded with the Department of Home Affairs to check the visa paperwork of Djokovic and other players before their in-bound flights.
The opposition home affairs spokesperson, Kristina Keneally, blamed the confusion on a lack of planning by the government and said the saga made Australia “look like a bit of a joke” on the world stage.
“It does incredible damage to Australia” if Djokovic gets deported, Keneally told the Seven Network television, but “if he gets to stay it does incredible damage to our tough border laws and is a real insult to the Australians who did the hard work of lockdowns and vaccination.”
Making matters worse, even Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state which is hosting the Australian Open, suggested that his own government had switched up the rules in a manner that sowed confusion.
Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state which is hosting the Australian Open, said the federal government had changed its border rules in recent months.
“When we talked about exemptions previously, you would recall that Minister Hawke had said that it was his expectation that if you weren’t double vaxxed, you wouldn’t get into the country whether you’re playing tennis or doing anything else,” said Andrews, who like Keneally is a member of the center-left Labor Party.
“Turned out that wasn’t the Commonwealth government’s position and that they have been letting people in who haven’t been double vaxxed,” Andrews added.
As the world waits to see whether the Australian government will double down and expel Djokovic – a deportation would include a three-year ban for the tennis star – crowds of fanatical Djokovic supporters have already clashed with Australian police outside his lawyer’s office following the judge’s decision to free the star.
With all the potential for more drama should the government try to apprehend the tennis player for a deportation, the Washington Post has termed this Australia’s “summer of discontent”.