World number one Novak Djokovic may have encountered a late snag on his trip to play in the Australian Open, after state government officials refused to support his visa application.
Victoria’s acting sports minister, Jaala Pulford, said late Wednesday that her state had rejected a request for help and visa approvals were a matter for the federal government.
It was unclear why the state government would need to lend its support.
But Australian media reports said the nine-time Australian Open champion may have submitted a request for the wrong type of visa.
He reportedly landed in Melbourne late Wednesday.
“The federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,” Pulford said in a message on Twitter.
“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.”
The Australian newspaper said Djokovic was seeking to enter the country on a work visa which “was believed to require the support from the Victorian government”.
Melbourne’s The Age newspaper said the federal Border Force had contacted the Victorian government when they realised Djokovic’s team had requested “the wrong type of visa”.
‘Next plane home’
The Age said Djokovic was likely to be allowed off his plane and into Melbourne but the issue was delaying his entry.
Australians reacted with fury on learning that vaccine-sceptic Djokovic had received a medical exemption from having a Covid vaccine in order to play at this month’s Open.
Tournament chief Craig Tiley said the defending champion had been given “no special favour” but urged him to reveal why he got the exemption to soothe public anger.
All participants at the first Grand Slam of 2022, which starts on January 17, must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a medical exemption, which is granted only after assessment by two panels of independent experts.
Djokovic announced late Tuesday he was en route to Melbourne with “an exemption permission”, ending the drawn-out saga over whether he would defend his title.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that if the reasons for Djokovic’s exemption were “insufficient” then the Serb would be “on the next plane home”.
“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever,” he told a news conference.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews warned that anyone entering the country must comply with strict border requirements.
“While the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border,” she said in a statement.
“No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”