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Visa cancellation could be just the start of Djokovic's slam woes

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2022-01-14 18:37:45 BdST

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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic practices at Melbourne Park before his visa was again cancelled by the Australian government in Melbourne, Australia, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Australia's decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa a second time could hamper the world number one's ability to travel freely to other countries and thwart his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam crown if he remains unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The immigration minister exercised his discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic's visa on Friday after a court had quashed an earlier revocation and released the 34-year-old from immigration detention a week before the Australian Open.

Staring at a possible three-year entry ban if he does not overturn the decision and play this year, Djokovic stands to lose three more shots at the Melbourne trophy he has won nine times as he bids to edge ahead of rivals Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, with whom he is tied on 20 major titles.

As one of three top-100 ATP players who are yet to be vaccinated in the third year of a pandemic that has killed close to 6 million people, Djokovic could also face hurdles when travelling to the three other Grand Slams.

Most countries require visa applicants to disclose if they have ever been deported or had a visa rejected or cancelled.

While France's sports minister said last week that Djokovic would be allowed to play at the Roland Garros even if unvaccinated, citing International Tennis Federation protocols, President Emmanuel Macron's comments do not bode well for Djokovic defending his title there.

He has said he wants to make the lives of the unvaccinated so complicated they will end up getting jabbed. France does not bar unvaccinated people from entering its territory but imposes tougher restrictions than on those who have had the shot.

The French Tennis Federation said it was still too early to reveal health protocols.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club that organises Wimbledon -- which Djokovic won last year for the sixth time -- is also yet to decide safety arrangements for the major.

But the Lawn Tennis Association said entry requirements for its events, some of which serve as Wimbledon warm-ups, would be determined by the government, and that, currently, non-vaccinated people could enter the country but must self-isolate for 10 days.

A US Open representative said the tournament would follow New York City Department of Health guidelines.

Flying into the United States could also be an issue for Djokovic. Foreign air travellers have had to be fully vaccinated since November and provide proof before boarding flights, with limited exceptions.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there are no exceptions for vaccine requirements "for religious reasons or other moral convictions".

To top things off, Djokovic also stands to lose his number one ranking if he does not play in the Australian Open and if either Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev -- ranked second and third in the world -- win the tournament.