Tennis champion Novak Djokovic was told on Wednesday that his visa was rejected and that he must leave Australia, meaning he will be unable to compete in the Australian Open, which runs Jan. 17 to 30 in Melbourne.  Local government rejected a request to sponsor his visa and exemption from COVID-19 vaccination, with reports saying Djokovic was held at the Melbourne airport pending further decisions. It was unclear whether Djokovic would leave the country or whether his lawyers would fight to overturn the decision. He could be placed in a government facility or a hotel quarantine until the issue is resolved.

Djokovic had just announced on Tuesday that he received “exemption permission” to compete in the Grand Slam tournament. However after his arrival in Australia, Djokovic was kept from leaving the airport in Melbourne. Australia requires travelers older than 12 to provide proof of vaccination upon entry, unless they are exempt for medical reasons. Djokovic was questioned because he attempted to enter the country with a visa that did not allow medical exemptions for unvaccinated people.

Victorian acting sports minister Jaala Pulford tweeted Wednesday: “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.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said Wednesday that Djokovic, the top-ranked men’s tennis player, would be sent home if he isn’t cleared to enter the country based on its vaccination requirement for travelers. “If that evidence is insufficient, then [Djokovic] won’t be treated any different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home. And so if medical exemptions had been provided by medical professionals and that’s been furnished to him as a proviso for him to get on that plane, well, that will have to stack up when he arrives in Australia.”

Djokovic won the last three singles titles at the Australian Open. His 20 Grand Slam singles titles are tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most in men’s tennis history.

Editorial credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

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