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Novak Djokovic will remain in Australia until at least Monday as he fights visa cancellation

Djokovic denied entry to Australia
Djokovic denied entry to Australia over vaccine policy 00:31

Novak Djokovic will have to wait in Melbourne until at least Monday while his lawyers seek to appeal the Australian government's decision to cancel his visa, Reuters reported. The tennis star was denied entry into Australia on Wednesday, days after he was granted a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements to play in the upcoming Australian Open. 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is in a hotel for immigration detainees in the city after his lawyers reached an agreement for him to stay in the country before a full court hearing on Monday, according to Reuters. 

On Tuesday, Djokovic announced that he had been granted a medical exemption to compete in the Open — a decision that quickly sparked backlash in Australia. Djokovic has not publicly disclosed whether he has been vaccinated, but had voiced his opposition to mandatory vaccination in the past. 

Tournament officials said in a statement that he was granted the medical exemption after a "rigorous review process" that included two separate independent panels of experts, which are made up of doctors from immunology, infectious disease and general practice. It is not clear why Djokovic was granted the exemption. 

But when Djokovic arrived in Australia on Wednesday, officials realized that his team had applied for a type of visa that does not permit vaccine exemptions, Reuters reported. After hours of waiting, Australia's border force said his visa was canceled after he "failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia." 

The decision drew ire from Djokovic's supporters on Thursday, including from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who alleged he was being treated differently than other players, The Associated Press reported.

"I'm afraid that this overkill will continue," Vucic said. "When you can't beat someone, then you do such things."

While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged in a news conference that other players may be in Australia on the same type of medical exemption as Djokovic, he denied that federal officials were singling him out. 

"Rules are rules," he said, according to Reuters. "And there are no special cases...Entry with a visa requires double vaccination or a medical exemption. I'm advised that such an exemption was not in place and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else." 

At a protest with about 300 fans in Belgrade, Serbia, Djokovic's family decried the treatment of their son.

"I feel terrible since yesterday, last 24 hours, that they are keeping him as a prisoner. It's just not fair, it's not human," Djokovic's mother Dijana said, according to the AP. 

Novak Djokovic Held In Melbourne Airport After Australian Visa Denied
A Novak Djokovic supporter displays anti-vaccination signage as they gather outside Park Hotel where Djokovic was taken pending his removal from the country after his visa was cancelled by the Australian Border Force on Thursday.  Getty Images

The public outcry against Djokovic's exemption comes as the country's residents have dealt with strict COVID-related measures. In Melbourne, people have spent more than 260 days under lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the BBC. 

Djokovic has nine Australian Open titles, and he won the last three. He is currently in a three-way tie with tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam singles titles. 

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