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    Serbia's Vucic Denounces Australia’s Treatment of Novak Djokovic as ‘Orwellian’

    In the tennis star’s homeland, even those who didn’t support his decision to remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus said that he had been mistreated.BELGRADE, Serbia — President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia blasted the Australian government on Sunday for what he called the “harassment” of Novak Djokovic, deriding the legal process that led to the tennis star’s deportation one day before the start of the Australian Open as “Orwellian” and saying that the player would be welcomed home.“I talked to Novak a while ago, and I encouraged him, and I told him that I can’t wait for him to come to Serbia and return to his country, and to be where he is always welcome,” Mr. Vucic said in a statement on the day that Mr. Djokovic left Australia after a legal dispute surrounding his coronavirus vaccination status.“They think that they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, and they actually humiliated themselves,” Mr. Vucic said.In Serbia, where Mr. Djokovic is deeply revered and widely respected as one of his country’s greatest sports stars, even those who did not support his decision to remain unvaccinated said that he had been maligned and mistreated.Dr. Predrag Kon, a member of Serbia’s pandemic response team who has been a lead voice in calling for people to get vaccinated as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant brings a new wave of infection, joined those expressing outrage.A mural of Mr. Djokovic in Belgrade, Serbia, where he is revered as one of his country’s greatest sports stars.Marko Risovic for The New York Times“I am shocked by the decision,” he wrote on Facebook. “This is by no means in the spirit of the International Health Regulations, which speak of the free movement of passengers, goods and services. I wish he never got into this situation.”Vuk Jeremic, who was Serbia’s foreign minister from 2007 to 2012 before serving as president of the United Nations General Assembly, said that Mr. Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated should be seen in the context of the region.“Unfortunately, such is the widespread opinion in most of southeast Europe, the underlying reasons being deep and to do with general distrust toward governments and institutions, after decades of terrible corruption and growing inequality,” Mr. Jeremic said.But he said that in no way justified the events as they played out.“The Australian government’s conduct toward him has been utterly disgraceful,” Mr. Jeremic said in an email sent as Mr. Djokovic’s legal team was making its arguments in court.A panel of three federal judges went on to rule that Australia’s immigration minister was within his rights to cancel the unvaccinated tennis star’s visa on the basis that the player could pose a risk to public health and order.Mr. Jeremic called the Australian government’s mantra in the case — “rules are rules” — hypocrisy.“All the other tournament participants who got the medical exemption from the same medical panel got the same visa and entered Australia without hindrance,” Mr. Jeremic said. “Novak is a victim of brinkmanship by shameless populists, exclusively driven by snap opinion polls.”Fans of Mr. Djokovic outside the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday after the ruling. Alana Holmberg for The New York TimesAfter revoking Mr. Djokovic’s visa a second time, all the Australian government had to do to win its legal case this weekend was show that the tennis star “may” cause harm if allowed to stay in the country despite being unvaccinated against the coronavirus.But in Serbia, the decision to kick Mr. Djokovic out of Australia was greeted with outrage. On Sunday, the headline of a leading tabloid, Kurir, captured the mood: “Shame on Australia! The biggest shame in the history of sports happened in Melbourne.”The Serbian Tennis Federation said it was a victory of politics over sports.Mr. Djokovic, in an emailed statement, said that he was “extremely disappointed” but that he respected the ruling. He left Australia on a flight to Dubai a few hours after releasing the statement, which his team said would be his last comments on the matter until the Australian Open was over.While Mr. Djokovic said he was uncomfortable with all of the attention and hoped the focus could return to tennis, there was agreement in Serbia that the matter had been handled poorly. Many believe that Mr. Djokovic would not have been treated the same way if he had come from a richer country.The tennis player’s father, Srdjan Djokovic — who is not known for understatement and who compared his son to Jesus Christ during the ordeal — broke several days of silence to repost an image on Instagram on Sunday morning.Written over pictures of his son winning trophies were the words: “The attempt to assassinate the best athlete in the world has ended, 50 bullets in Novak’s chest.”The parents and brother of Mr. Djokovic spoke to the news media in Belgrade this past week. The tennis player’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, has compared his son to Jesus Christ because of the imbroglio.Zorana Jevtic/ReutersThe imbroglio could have been avoided, Mr. Vucic said, if Australia had made it clear that the player would have to be vaccinated to enter the country and play.The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 5A vaccine exemption question. More

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    Novak Djokovic’s Fight to Stay in Australia Lives Another Day

    A federal court judge scheduled a Sunday hearing to address the unvaccinated tennis star’s Australian visa revocation. The Australian Open begins on Monday.Novak Djokovic, the top men’s tennis player in the world, was detained by border authorities in Australia, on Saturday, the latest turn in a legal dispute over his travel visa that has drawn interest around the world and inflamed tensions during a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.The Australian minister for immigration revoked Djokovic’s travel visa for the second time on Friday because of concerns that Djokovic had violated the country’s rules intended to limit the spread of the virus, arguing that his high-profile status could harm the nation’s battle against the coronavirus.The matter could be resolved in a courtroom showdown Sunday at 9:30 a.m. local time. If the decision to cancel the visa is upheld, Djokovic, 34, could be forced out of the Australian Open tennis tournament and deported, a stunning development should it unfold that way. Then again, if the court rules in favor of Djokovic and allows him to remain, that would be equally shocking to many people who feel the player has already received preferential treatment.Both sides are expected to submit legal papers laying out their arguments to the court on Saturday after Djokovic was ordered to attend the hearing remotely by video from his attorney’s offices.Djokovic’s legal team asked that a full panel of judges hear the case rather than a single judge, which would mean the court’s decision on the matter could not be appealed. Justice David O’Callaghan said he would inform the parties later on Saturday of his decision on that question.Djokovic was appealing the most recent ruling in a case that has highlighted the global challenge of balancing the fight against the coronavirus and a return to so-called normal life, amid a swirl of political ramifications.The matter has produced outrage in Australia and beyond. Djokovic, who refuses to be vaccinated, has long held unorthodox and unscientific views of health. Many see the visa controversy as his devious attempt to leverage his status as an elite sports star to flout rules followed by ordinary Australians and others who travel there. The law states that anyone entering the country is required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus unless they have a medical exemption.In Serbia, Djokovic’s home country, and elsewhere, the ongoing incident is seen by some as an unfair attempt to prevent him from winning a record 21st Grand Slam by defending his title at the Australian Open, which begins Monday. Earlier in the week, his supporters clashed with police in Melbourne.In a statement explaining why he revoked Djokovic’s visa a second time, Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration, argued that if Djokovic were allowed to remain in Australia and play, the influential tennis star could harm efforts to combat the virus. The government has conceded that Djokovic poses no imminent threat to spread the disease. It is more about the example it would set by allowing him to stay.“Given Mr. Djokovic’s high-profile status and position as a role model in the sporting and broader community,” Hawke said in a statement, “his ongoing presence in Australia may foster similar disregard for the precautionary requirements following receipt of a positive Covid-19 test in Australia.”Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the government unfairly based their decision to revoke his visa again on the premise that Djokovic would engender anti-vaccine sentiments and not on the rule of law.All of it comes during a surge in coronavirus cases globally, and particularly in Australia, which has endured long lockdowns and restrictions. Initially, sentiment in Australia seemed to support Djokovic because he came to Melbourne under the impression that he had a legal exemption. But as more information emerged, including false statements and Djokovic’s cavalier approach after he tested positive in December, the mood has largely turned against him.Djokovic was initially given the an exemption to the federal requirement that everyone entering Australia be vaccinated against the coronavirus so that he could play in the Australian Open. It was granted based on a positive test he took in Serbia on Dec. 16. But soon after he arrived at the Melbourne airport on Jan. 5, he was detained by the federal authorities and sent to a hotel for refugees and asylum seekers.A judge quickly rescinded the detention order on procedural grounds, saying that Djokovic had not been given a fair opportunity to consult with representatives and allies, like the organizers of the tournament. He was allowed to leave detention and hit the practice courts and prepare to compete for what would be his fourth consecutive Australian Open title and record 10th over all.But an investigation revealed irregularities and inaccurate statements on Djokovic’s visa application — which Djokovic later acknowledged and apologized for on Wednesday. The documents failed to state that Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, had traveled between Serbia and Spain during the 14 days ahead of his arrival in Australia. Djokovic attributed the error to human oversight by one of his handlers.The Australian government also expressed concern that on Dec. 18, a day after Djokovic learned that he had tested positive, he hosted journalists at his tennis center in Belgrade for an interview and photo shoot, without informing them. Those revelations led to the second visa revocation on Friday.Some skeptics wondered if Djokovic’s positive test might have been faked to help him earn the exemption. On Friday, Zoran Gojkovic, a member of Serbia’s coronavirus crisis team, said the player’s positive test result was valid. He added that Djokovic had not violated any Serbian laws, especially since the state of emergency was lifted last month.The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 4A vaccine exemption question. More

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    Djokovic Tested Positive for Coronavirus in December, His Lawyers Say

    Lawyers for the tennis star, who is appealing Australia’s decision to deny him entry, said the positive test came weeks before he flew to the country.MELBOURNE, Australia — In a court filing on Saturday, lawyers for Novak Djokovic said the tennis star had tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-December, and that the Australian government had erred this week in canceling his visa over a vaccine requirement.Mr. Djokovic, who hopes to defend his men’s singles title at the Australian Open this month, was denied permission to enter the country on Thursday after arriving at a Melbourne airport. The border authorities said they canceled his visa because he had not provided evidence to justify being exempted from Australia’s requirement that arrivals be vaccinated against the coronavirus.In the filing on Saturday, Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers said he had been granted a vaccine exemption by Tennis Australia because of a positive Dec. 16 coronavirus test result, and because 14 days later, he had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in 72 hours.The conditions of the exemption were consistent with the recommendations of Australia’s immunization advisory body, the lawyers argued. Given these circumstances, among others, “Mr. Djokovic understood that he was entitled to enter Australia,” the filing read.Mr. Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, is in quarantine at a hotel in Melbourne as he awaits a hearing, scheduled for Monday, on his appeal of the government’s decision to revoke his visa.The Novak Djokovic Standoff with AustraliaWhat Happened: The No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player was refused entry to Australia over questions about a Covid vaccine exemption.Understand the Standoff: Mr. Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, was granted an exemption that would allow him to defend his Australian Open title. Then the federal government stepped in.A Difficult Moment in Australia: Barring the tennis star offers a chance to change the subject as an election looms and cases are at record highs.Exemption Skepticism: Here’s how the tennis world initially reacted to the news that Djokovic was granted an exemption.He announced in June 2020 that he and his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus, but his December infection had not previously been disclosed.Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the Australian authorities, in canceling his visa, “radically and fundamentally” misconstrued or misapplied advice from Australia’s immunization advisory body about whether a coronavirus infection within the past six months should exempt him from the vaccination requirement.The filing also claims that Mr. Djokovic was denied procedural fairness after arriving in Australia, when he was held at the airport by the immigration authorities from about midnight to 8 a.m.His lawyers say Mr. Djokovic was initially told by immigration officials that a decision about his visa would not be made until after 8:30 a.m., after he had a chance to speak to Tennis Australia officials. But around 6 a.m., they say, he was pressured to consent to an immediate decision. He relented, “feeling he had no choice,” and was notified at 7:42 a.m. that his visa had been canceled, according to the filing.The Australian Border Force declined to comment on the filing, citing the pending court hearing. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that the revocation of Mr. Djokovic’s visa was “simply a matter of following the rules.”If Mr. Djokovic’s appeal fails, he could be barred from entering Australia for three years, under rules applicable to people whose visas are canceled.Separately, the Australian Border Force on Saturday night said that two others linked to the tennis tournament whom it had been investigating had left the country.“The Australian Border Force (ABF) investigation into the visa status of two other individuals connected to the Australian Open has concluded,” it said in an emailed statement. “The ABF can confirm both individuals have now voluntarily departed Australia.”The statement did not identify the two individuals, but local news media had reported the investigations a few days earlier.On Friday, the Czech foreign ministry confirmed in a statement that a Czech player, Renata Voracova, had been placed in the same detention as Mr. Djokovic, along “with several other tennis players.” She had “proven noninfectious status in a way that entitles her to participate in the tournament,” and had already played at a warm-up event, the statement said, but had “decided to give up further participation in the tournament and leave Australia due to the limited possibility of training.”The Australia Broadcasting Corporation also reported that a European tennis official under similar circumstances had left the country. More