BELGRADE, Serbia — Novak Djokovic, undone in his quest for a tenth Australian Open tennis championship by his determination to stay unvaccinated towards Covid-19, returned on Monday to the nice and cozy embrace of his residence nation of Serbia whilst his future within the sport was shrouded in uncertainty.
He landed in Belgrade a day after being deported from Australia following a decision by the Australian authorities to revoke his visa out of concern that he may encourage anti-vaccination sentiment.
As he slipped out a personal exit at Nikola Tesla Worldwide Airport in Belgrade to keep away from a crowd of ready reporters, practically two weeks of authorized wrangling, political posturing and intense media focus got here to a reasonably subdued finish.
The few dozen supporters who made their technique to the airport waved flags, chanted their help for Mr. Djokovic and complained that their hero had been mistreated.
One among them, Simon Avramov, got here along with his spouse and two babies.
“The world couldn’t let somebody from this small nation be a champion,” he stated.
But when Mr. Djokovic chooses to stay unvaccinated, it won’t simply be Australia the place he might need bother enjoying. His quest to win a report twenty first Grand Slam title could possibly be in jeopardy, as different nations even have guidelines on permitting in vacationers who’re unvaccinated.
The swirling drama in Australia — which transcended the world of sport because it turned a part of a broader debate about civil liberties and collective duty — could be solely the first chapter within the tennis star’s saga.
The French Open is the following main match on the calendar, resulting from begin in Could, and France’s sports activities ministry stated on Monday it will not grant exemptions to its newest guidelines on vaccine passes, which it famous utilized to skilled gamers in addition to spectators.
However a match consultant additionally stated the state of affairs may change earlier than the occasion was held.
In Australia, the place Mr. Djokovic has been the dominant drive for the previous decade, he is probably not allowed again for 3 years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised an Australian radio station on Monday that Mr. Djokovic could be allowed to enter sooner underneath the “proper circumstances.”
The minister for residence affairs, Karen Andrews, stated she had not dominated out an exemption.
“Any utility shall be reviewed on its deserves,” she stated.
Mr. Djokovic had offered proof when he first landed in Australia that he was exempt from the nation’s vaccination mandate as a result of he had been beforehand contaminated with the virus.
As quickly as he landed, nevertheless, his visa was challenged by border brokers after which revoked by the federal government. Mr. Djokovic appealed that call, and a courtroom dominated in his favor.
However simply 4 days later, the Australian authorities revoked his visa once more. This time, the federal government didn’t problem Mr. Djokovic’s visa on technical grounds.
As an alternative, it argued that his determination to stay unvaccinated was in itself a hazard since it would encourage others to withstand inoculation.
On Sunday, the courtroom discovered within the authorities’s favor, and inside hours Mr. Djokovic had left the nation, touring first to Dubai after which on to Belgrade.
The Novak Djokovic Standoff With Australia
Whereas he was in midflight, the best skyscraper in downtown Belgrade was illuminated in his honor.
“Nole, you’re the pleasure of Serbia,” it stated, utilizing the affectionate nickname for the tennis star.
In Serbia, the place vaccine skepticism runs deep, even those that don’t agree along with his determination to stay unvaccinated say he has been treated badly.
Mr. Djokovic supplied no public remark upon returning residence. In a press release after the courtroom ruling, he stated he was uncomfortable with all the general public consideration on him and wished the main focus to return to tennis.
As he landed in Belgrade, the match in Melbourne was simply getting underway. With out its reigning champion.