Will Novak Djokovic ever win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title? Maybe not. Djokovic is currently licking his wounds back home in Serbia after being kicked out of Australia on the eve of the Australian Open.
Yesterday, the French government announced a ban on unvaccinated athletes from competing in the country’s stadiums. Looks like we won’t be seeing Novak at Roland Garros this Spring then. As it stands, he has no chance of rocking up to Flushing Meadows to play in The US Open later this year either. No-one is getting into the US right now unless they’ve been jabbed.
What about Wimbledon? According to The Telegraph:
The UK Government position remained unchanged on Monday but the Daily Telegraph has been told that did not mean Djokovic’s Wimbledon title defence was assured.
The All England Club was said to be prepared to go further than the law required when it came to its own Covid rules – as it did last year.
A total ban on unvaccinated players in the absence of Government edict would seem unlikely but Djokovic, who arrived back home in Serbia on Monday, could yet be subject to severe restrictions during the tournament.
It’s a brave new world. Oliver Brown is The Telegraph’s Chief Sports Writer. He described the Djokovic saga as “Orwellian.” In an excellent article for the Sunday Telegraph, Brown concluded:
This sets an alarming precedent. The Australian Lawyers’ Alliance issued a statement that the deporting of Djokovic reflected less the toughness of the nation’s border laws than their arbitrariness. Greg Barnes SC, the group’s spokesman, said: “One of the most dangerous aspects of the Djokovic matter is the preparedness of the federal government to deem someone a risk to public order simply on the basis of what it perceives that person’s views might be. This is Orwellian and it is deeply troubling in a society supposedly committed to freedom of speech and freedom of thought”.
“Orwellian” is right. For almost two years now, Australia has coined some of the cruellest policies ever concocted in the name of public health. Families have been separated indefinitely across the oceans, expatriates have been threatened with prison if they dared return to their own country, while Melbourne’s 262 days of lockdown were symbolised by the sight of a homeless woman on a park bench surrounded by eight police officers. The complication is that while these excesses provoke horror in the outside world, they are endorsed by most here. Mark McGowan, premier of Western Australia, has kept his borders slammed shut even to neighbouring states for 22 months and is feted as a hero.
It is against this backdrop that the ejection of Djokovic is greeted with mass enthusiasm. It is a cause for national jubilation that the reputation of the world’s most divisive player has been severely wounded. But so too, sadly, has that of the once-tolerant country that has kicked him out.