The saga surrounding Novak Djokovic’s attendance at the Australian Open continued on Wednesday after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that he will need to provide evidence to support his medical exemption for being unvaccinated or be sent “on the next plane home.”
Djokovic announced Tuesday that he was heading to Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open after being granted a medical exemption, ending months of speculation because of his preference not to reveal his vaccine status.
But the following day, Morrison said during a news conference that Djokovic will need to provide “evidence” to support the need for an exemption.
In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, file photo, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after defeating Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the men’s singles final of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
“We await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that,” he said, via Reuters. “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.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended the exemption, saying that Djokovic was a part of just a “handful” of people granted a medical exemption, with just 26 applying for it overall.
He called the process “completely legitimate,” adding that no special treatment was given.
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, serves against Jenson Brooksby, of the United States, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Victoria state’s acting minister for sports, Jaala Pulford, also defended the process calling it “robust” but added that “lots of people in the Victorian community will find this to be a disappointing outcome.”
Melbourne’s The Age newspaper reported that Djokovic had landed before midnight local time at Tullamarine Airport but his entry was delayed because of a mistake with his visa application.
It was unclear if he would be granted entry.
Pulford said on Twitter late Wednesday that the federal government would “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,” she continued.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.