Tennis star and Serbian immigrant Novak Djokovic needs some tutoring on character
Novak Djokovic is probably the greatest tennis player on the planet. But he has forgotten a bigger life lesson that greatness is a responsibility. His conduct and disrespect for law and authority at the 2021 Australian Tennis Open, complete disregard of Covid health guidelines and his deportation have sadly demonstrated a tragic contrast between his public behavior and tennis prowess.
Novak Djokovic, the Serbian immigrant turned global megastar is the world’s number one tennis player. He has won 86 career singles titles, including 20 Grand Slams, 37 ATP Masters Series and a record-breaking 9 men’s titles at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic might not get a chance to defend his Australian Open title and could be ejected from Australia after an Australian judge cancelled his visa for a second time on public health grounds and for entering the country without a COVID-19 vaccination.
What’s the problem in Australia?
The Australian Open event director Craig Tiley had clearly stated two months in advance that ALL players are required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus for the tennis tournament. No exemptions.
The unvaccinated Djokovic found a way to go around this strict guideline and somehow managed to get an exemption. Here is a summary of key dates in the developing saga:
The road to deportation
- Dec 16: Djokovic tested positive for coronavirus. His accompanying PCR result by the Institute of Public Health of Serbia showed he was tested at 1:05 p.m. and the result time as 8:19 p.m.
- Dec 17: The tennis star said he attended a charity event in Belgrade and social media posts show him maskless handing out awards to children. He said in a statement on Wednesday he did not get his PCR result until after the event. He said a rapid antigen test he took beforehand was negative.
- Dec 18: Djokovic broke Serbia’s isolation rules for a photoshoot and interview with L’Equipe newspaper. He said in his statement that he “felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down.”
- Dec 22: He received a negative PCR result from the Institute of Public Health of Serbia, according to court documents.
- Dec 24-25: Djokovic was seen in Belgrade, according to Reuters. A video posted on social media on Christmas Day showed him playing street tennis in Belgrade.
- Dec 30: Tennis Australia informed the world number one that he was granted a temporary medical exemption from the country’s vaccine requirements on the grounds of previous infection. In a letter dated Dec. 30, Australian Open organizers said this was granted by a panel of medical experts and reviewed by the state government of Victoria, where the tournament is held.
- Jan 1: Djokovic told his agent to fill out his travel declaration to enter Australia. The declaration stated that he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his expected departure from Spain on Jan 4. The Department of Home Affairs advised the agent that Djokovic met the requirements for quarantine-free arrival in Australia. The player later admitted the immigration form had contained an error in not saying he had traveled between Serbia and Spain in the 14 days before he departed.
- Djokovic therefore entered the country on potentially fraudulent grounds.
- Jan 2: Djokovic was issued with a border travel permit by the Victorian government. He was seen greeting a fan on video in Marbella, Spain.
- Jan 4: “I’m heading Down Under with an exemption,” Djokovic announced to the world in an Instagram post shortly before flying from Spain via Dubai to Melbourne. The impending arrival of the vaccine sceptic prompted a huge backlash in Australia, which has undergone some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 lockdowns and where hospitalisation rates have hit a record high.
- Jan 5: Djokovic touched down at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport at 11:30 p.m.
- Jan 6: Australia’s Border Force detained the tennis star in a room at the airport overnight, denying him permission to enter the country and notifying him of their intention to remove him. The Serbian president objected to Canberra.
- Jan 7: Djokovic faced 72 hours over the Orthodox Christmas holed up in a hotel for asylum seekers after a court agreed to hear his appeal against his canceled visa.
- Jan 10: In a virtual court hearing that saw pranksters hijack the live stream and protesters pepper-sprayed outside his lawyer’s office, Djokovic was freed from detention. A judge quashed the government’s decision to cancel his visa on the grounds it was unreasonable. Australian immigration minister Alexander Hawke said he would weigh the use of personal powers to deport him anyway. Just after midnight, Djokovic tweeted a photo of himself practicing at Rod Laver Arena.
- Jan 11: Social media posts and eyewitness accounts to Reuters contradicted Djokovic’s immigration form declaration that he did not travel for 14 days before entering the country.
- Jan 12: Djokovic posted a statement on Instagram apologising for the mistake on the form and for leaving quarantine to do a photoshoot with L’Equipe.
- Jan 13: Djokovic was included in the Australian Open draw as the top seed.
- Jan 14: Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying he may pose a health risk.
- Jan 15: Djokovic returned to the immigration detention hotel where he was previously held.
- Judgement day and deportation. Djokovic’ lost his appeal case. The decision of the three-judge panel was final. He was found guilty and deported from the country, and also faces a three-year ban on re-entry to Australia.
Djokovic and his questionable science
The tennis star has a track record when it comes to questionable scientific claims.
In his book Serve to Win, Djokovic described how in 2010 he met with a nutritionist who asked him to hold a piece of bread in his left hand while he pressed down on his right arm. Djokovic claims he was much weaker while holding the bread, and cited this as evidence of gluten intolerance.
And during an Instagram live, he claimed that positive thought could “cleanse” polluted water, adding that “scientists have proven that molecules in water react to our emotions.”
According to Dr David Nunan, a senior researcher at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, “on the balance of probabilities it is highly unlikely that such claims are true – at least not by current conventions of scientific theory and practice.”
Earlier in the pandemic, Djokovic’s wife repeated a 5G conspiracy theory on Instagram – her post was given a misinformation label by the social network.
$30 million sponsorship deal might be kissed goodbye
Lacoste, Head tennis racket, Hublot a Swiss luxury watchmaker, and Australia’s biggest bank ANZ are some of his major sponsors. They would be watching the Australian Open Covid drama closely and it’s huge potential to tarnish their brand reputations.
Novak Djokovic was the fourth-highest-paid tennis player in 2021. He reportedly made a whopping $30 million from endorsements alone, with an additional $8 million coming from his tennis winnings.
His net worth currently stands at an estimated $220 million.
In addition to an already battered reiteration, Djokovic might also be bracing up to kiss $30 million goodbye, if his sponsors take a walk from the Serbian immigrant.
Greatness and responsibility
Djokovic will need to take some marathon training to learn the important lesson that greatness comes with responsibility.