The Australian government has rejected Novak Djokovic's application to enter the country to take part in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
This comes after Australia’s Prime Minister warned Djokovic that he will be on the 'next plane home' if his evidence for being exempted from Covid-19 vaccination rules is deemed insufficient.
World number one Djokovic is poised to defend his Australian Open title this month after tournament organisers prompted public outrage by granting him permission to play.
The Serbian arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday evening local time, but faced trouble at the border, with Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirming that the state government was not supporting his visa application to compete in the Australian Open.
She tweeted: “The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
“We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
It remains unclear whether Djokovic has since been allowed into the country and the situation continued to develop late into the night in Melbourne.
Djokovic – a nine-time winner – has not spoken publicly about his vaccination status but last year said he was 'opposed to vaccination'.
It remains unclear what qualifies the 34-year-old for exemption, and tournament director Craig Tiley has said it would be 'helpful' for Djokovic to clarify his situation.
Prime Minister Morrison told a media conference today (5 January): “We await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that."
He went on to add: “If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home.
“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.”
Morrison’s comments were echoed by a statement from Australia’s minister for home affairs Karen Andrews. She said: “Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements.
“No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”
The Australian Open is scheduled to begin on 17 January with Craig Tiley revealing 26 unvaccinated players applied for exemption, with Djokovic among only a 'handful' given the green light under guidelines set by federal regulators.
Having insisted the 20-time grand slam winner had not benefited from 'special favour', Tiley later urged the player to be transparent on the issue as public criticism increased.
“We completely understand and empathise that some would have been upset by the fact that Novak Djokovic has come in because of his statements around vaccination in the past couple of years,” Tiley told reporters.
“We would love…Novak to talk about it and help us with it, but ultimately it’s going to be up to him.
“We aren’t in a position, even legally, to disclose other people’s medical information.”Featured Image Credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo