Novak Djokovic versus the Scott Morrison government was always going to be a walkover for the home side from the moment the Serbian set foot in the country.
On one side of the court you had a cocky, entitled, multi-millionaire anti-vaxxer who by his own admission had submitted customs forms containing incorrect information when he landed in Melbourne.
On the other side, serving with new balls, was a Liberal Party Prime Minister who has spent the past two years being humiliated over border control by Labor Party premiers.
Handed a golden opportunity in an election year to show that he is still in charge of who enters this country, there was no way the PM was going to drop the ball.
It wasn’t a pretty victory by any means, and by the time Immigration Minister Alex Hawke smashed the match-winner, Mr Morrison looked more like he’d been 12 rounds with Tyson Fury than enjoying a bit of hit and giggle.
Novak Djokovic’s dreams of winning a tenth Australian Open appear to be in tatters after his visa was cancelled for a second time on Friday
The ugly saga was an opportunity for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to show everyone who runs Australia – with Djokovic the fall guy given he is unvaccinated
Melbourne TV presenters Rebecca Maddern and Mike Amor spoke for many Australian residents earlier this week when they stated in leaked footage the anti-vaxx, multimillionaire from Serbia should be deported and denied the right to play in the Australian Open
As Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said in trying to rain on the PM’s parade, ‘It should never have come to this. The Morrison government always responds too little and too late. It never envisages a problem that’s coming down the track and doesn’t act until a problem becomes a crisis.’
When reviewing the unravelling of the whole Djokovic debacle, it is hard to totally disagree with Mr Albanese, but any stones that are going to be thrown at the Federal government over its part in the affair are nothing in comparison to the avalanche that is surely headed Tennis Australia’s way.
The people who run the game in this country will get a reprieve until the end of the Australian Open but in the meantime, there should be a lot of people high up in that organisation getting their resumes in order.
If ever they start a university course called Event Mismanagement 101, a paper on the planning, implementation and execution of this year’s Australian Open should be required reading.
The whole thing has been a complete fiasco from start to finish, with Djokovic playing the role of the villain to perfection.
Of course, he has his supporters. There’s the Serbian prime minister for one, and Novak’s mum and dad as well, to say nothing of all those people waving flags and banners outside the hotel where he was detained.
But seriously, look at the facts. He entered this country using documents that contained false information.
He blamed his team for making an ‘error’ about where he had been prior to entering Australia. He knowingly exposed a French journalist to Covid without any warning.
He has, in the past, defied Covid restrictions in other countries – and seen his fellow professionals catch the virus as a result.
Is this really someone we want coming into our country right now?
For the past two years Australians have, for the most part, followed the rules set down by our leaders to control the onset of Covid in this country.
As a result some have missed the chance to say goodbye to loved ones who died alone.
They have been unable to attend funerals or comfort and support sick relatives in hospital. They have been refused entry to their own home state, had their marriage ceremonies cancelled and seen their businesses go broke.
World number one Novak Djokovic, 34, can appeal the decision via his lawyers on legal grounds – meaning he could still feature at Melbourne Park come Monday
A timeline showing the contrasting fortunes Novak Djokovic has endured since arriving in Australia on January 5
And those same Australians are expected to welcome into the country someone who flaunts those rules just because he can hit a tennis ball better than anyone else?
Hardly. It seems to me that there are only two people who have come out of this mess with their reputations enhanced, and that’s Rebecca Maddern and Mike Amor, those newsreaders in Melbourne.
In a swirling fog of half-truths, subterfuge, duplicity and downright lies they were the only ones who spoke the truth – and said what 99 percent of Australians were thinking.
As Maddern said, ‘whatever way you look at it, Novak Djokovic is a lying, sneaky a****hole’.
And Amor was spot on when he said that ‘Djokovic gave a bulls**t excuse and then fell over his own f***ing lies’.
Now, can we please get on with some tennis ? – starting with our very own Aussie hope, women’s world number one Ash Barty.
Key moments in Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open bid
By Karen Sweeney in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press
Tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic is still focused on defending his Australian Open title and winning a record-breaking 21st men’s grand slam tournament but the road to Melbourne has been bumpy and the path is not yet clear.
October/November – Djokovic applies for a temporary visa to enter Australia and compete in the 2022 Australian Open.
November 18 – Granted a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa.
December 14 – Attends a basketball match in Belgrade, Serbia, where attendees contract COVID-19.
December 16 – Djokovic is ‘tested and diagnosed’ with COVID-19. Documents show he was tested at 1.05pm and the result was returned at 8.19pm.
December 17 – Attends events in Belgrade, including a trophy presentation for junior tennis players. Pictured not wearing a mask and posing side-by-side indoors with a large group of children.
December 18 – Djokovic says he learned of the positive test and cancelled several scheduled events. Goes ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French newspaper L’Equipe, saying he felt ‘obliged’ because ‘I didn’t want to let the journalist down’.
December 22 – Returns a negative PCR test.
December 25 – Filmed by a fan playing tennis on a street in Belgrade. He is also photographed alongside Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic.
December 30 – Tennis Australia notify Djokovic he has been granted a temporary medical exemption, allowing him to play in the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The exemption was granted on the basis of a previous infection, based on the opinion of one panel of medical experts and reviewed by another.
December 31 – Filmed training at a tennis academy in Sotogrande, Spain. The academy post photos on its Instagram of him posing for pictures with fans a day later.
January 1 – Authorises his agent to complete his Australian Travel Declaration. The document says Djokovic had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his intended arrival in Australia. Later admits the form contained an error in not acknowledging his travel between Serbia and Spain. Djokovic said his agent was notified by the Department of Home Affairs that the declaration had been assessed and he met the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival.
January 2 – Granted a border travel permit by the Victorian government.
January 4 – Announces on Instagram he is ‘heading Down Under with an exemption’. The post was made shortly before he departed for Melbourne, via Dubai. News of his impending arrival sparks controversy in Australia.
January 5 – Arrives in Melbourne at 11.30pm.
January 6 – Australian Border Force officials detain Djokovic. After a series of early morning interviews his visa is cancelled at 7.29am. His lawyers are granted a temporary injunction by the Federal Circuit Court. Djokovic is taken to the Park Hotel, which is being used as an immigration detention centre.
January 7 – Spends Orthodox Christmas in his hotel room.
January 10 – After a lengthy hearing, a judge quashes the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa after lawyers concede the decision was unreasonable in the circumstances. Judge Anthony Kelly rules Djokovic be paid his costs and freed from immigration detention. Government lawyers note Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has a personal power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.
January 11 – Djokovic posts a photo of himself training at Rod Laver Arena. ‘Despite all that has happened in the past week, I want to stay and to try to compete at the Australian Open,’ he says. Questions are raised over his Australian Travel Declaration after documents released by the court revealed he answered ‘no’ to the question about travel in the 14 days before his arrival.
January 12 – Posts a statement on Instagram to correct ‘continuing misinformation’. He admits knowingly going through with the L’Equipe interview while positive for Covid-19. He also apologises for the ‘administrative mistake’ on the travel declaration. Mr Hawke’s office say he is still considering whether to exercise his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.
January 13 – The draw for the Australian Open is delayed pending news of Djokovic’s visa. When the draw eventually happens at 4.15, he is drawn against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic
January 14 – Djokovic’s visa is cancelled for a second time, with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke declaring the decision was made in the ‘interests of public safety’