By Ruemon Bhattacharyya — Correspondent
Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, is facing turmoil in his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title. Djokovic, a known vaccine skeptic, entered Australia with a vaccine exemption and was held in a detention center as he did not meet the Australian COVID-19 vaccination requirements with his visa being denied. After winning a court case on January 10th, 2022, and being released from detention, it is still unclear if Djokovic will be able to compete in the Australian Open.
Fellow tennis players have had mixed feelings about the situation. Rafael Nadal, currently ranked number 6 in the world and tied with Djokovic for most grand slam titles said to the Australian Open press, “He made his own decisions, and everybody’s free to make their own decisions, but then there are some consequences. He knew the conditions for a lot of months, so he made his own decision.”
Nick Kyrgios, a fierce rival of Djokovic, going far enough to call him a “tool” last year has shown some sympathy for the world number one. “Look I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum’s health, but how we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad. This is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better. We are so quick to forget and the media are so quick to jump on things and forget he [Djokovic] actually helped us during the bush fires. He didn’t have to do that, most athletes wouldn’t do that. They are selfish, most athletes are,” said Kyrgios.
However, Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has very strong feelings on the matter and does not think Novak Djokovic should be treated differently than anyone else. “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant,” said Morrison.
Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16, 2021. That same day, he was photographed at three events, where none of the other participants were masked. The following day, he was also photographed at a youth awards event. This is raising questions about the legitimacy of his exemption claims. Novak Djokovic’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, commented on questions surrounding the matter by saying, “It is for the court to look into.”
Members of the Sharon High Tennis team have voiced their opinions on the topic. Sophomore and varsity doubles player, Alexander “Bubs” Budovalcev supports Novak Djokovic. “In my opinion the Australian government saw an opportunity to exploit Novak’s celebrity status in-order to directly enforce their strict COVID rules. They did this completely disregarding Novak’s rights and in the process directly opposed their own local state government. This whole situation is a whole mess and has unfortunately become another way for politicians to politicize the virus,” said Budovalcev.