The Australian Open has been relinquishing its nickname of “Happy Slam” or “Happy Grand Slam” to become a tournament of tension and confusion, sparking controversy in recent years. On this Monday, Sunday night in Brasilia time, the traditional competition will wrap up in an unusually heavy atmosphere inside and outside the courts, heightened by the verdict of this Sunday, 16. Melbourne Federal Circuit Court For Novak Djokovic’s exile.
The creation of “Climate” began last week, when the Serbian tennis player announced that he had received “special medical permission” to compete in Australia. There was general unrest in the country, not without reason. The Australian government enforced one of the strictest lockdowns in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly 80% of the population reached out with a vaccine. But now it has allowed a sports personality to enter the country without proving that he was immunized.
Tennis players also shared the suspicion of benefiting the world number 1 player. After all, 97% of the top 100 male rankings were vaccinated against COVID-19. Djokovic was one of the few who did not get the vaccine. Some people vaccinated only to be able to play in Melbourne.
“Nobody really thought they could come to Australia without vaccinations and without following protocol. It takes a lot of courage to do so and risk the Grand Slam”, criticized the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was ranked fourth in the world. “He’s playing by his own rules. And that makes most of us look like fools.”
Spaniard Rafael Nadal also took a strong position. “There is no player in history who is more important than an event,” said the current number six. “Everyone chooses their own path. I respect Novak as a person and as an athlete, undoubtedly, even though I disagree with many of the things he’s done over the past few weeks.”
Hungarian marten fuscovix, 38th in the ranking and Portuguese Joao Sousa, 140th, reinforced the general discomfort. “People’s health is paramount and the rules were put in place several months ago. One of them was that everyone should get vaccinated and Djokovic didn’t. From that point of view, he has no right to be here,” Fuskovics said.
“What’s happening is not good for tennis. I can put myself in his shoes and understand what he’s going through, I understand what he believes in, but it’s with his teammates.” A little selfish. Profession. He got around the rules and, for all the other players, it’s not an easy decision to accept,” Sousa said.
No tennis player in the tournament bracket has spoken publicly in favor of the Serb. Even the crowd should not support him. This week’s polls showed that despite all his popularity in the country, the majority of the population was in favor of deporting the ranking leader. Djokovic is the holder of the Australian Open title with nine. Swiss Roger Federer, who will not compete this year, is second on the list with six wins.
The protests escalated as the Serbian had his visa revoked twice since arriving in Melbourne on the 6th. And he appealed twice to local justice. Two others, a tennis player and a coach, had their visas revoked for the same reasons as Djokovic. But they returned home without appealing for justice.
The whole mess started with the decision of the Serbs not to get the vaccine. But Tennis Australia, the Australian tennis federation, also contributed. The organization that organizes the Australian Open had informed tennis players that a recent infection with COVID-19 would be sufficient to obtain the “special permission” obtained by Djokovic. But the government warned the unit in November that it would not be accepted as justification. There were two letters sent to the federation, one of them by Health Minister Greg Hunt.
This is not the first time the federation has sparked controversy among tennis players. In 2021, still without vaccines against COVID-19, strict quarantine was imposed on almost all athletes due to the pandemic. The vast majority could not leave the “bubble”. Tennis players claimed that they were in a “jail”.
But most people benefited, including Djokovic himself. He, Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka, for example, were able to prepare with fewer restrictions in the city of Adelaide.