By Patrick Burke |
Czech tennis player Renata Voráčová has had her Australian visa cancelled after arriving for the Australian Open, and is being detained in the same hotel in Melbourne as Novak Djokovic.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Voráčová was detained by Border Force officials yesterday and is being held at the Park Hotel in the Carlton area of Melbourne, where Serbia’s men’s singles world number one Djokovic is also staying as he awaits the outcome of a court challenge to his refused entry.
This has now been confirmed by the Czech Foreign Ministry in a statement to Reuters: “We can confirm that Czech tennis player Renata Voráčová is in the same detention as Djokovic, together with several other players.
“We submitted through our embassy in Canberra a protest note and are asking for an explanation of the situation.
“However, Renata Voráčová decided to drop out of the tournament due to limited possibilities for training and to leave Australia.”
According to the ABC, Voráčová entered Australia last month having been granted a COVID-19 vaccination exemption by Tennis Australia after recently recovering from the virus, and had already featured in a warm-up tournament.
Voráčová is 81st in the Women’s Tennis Association’s doubles rankings and had been due to partner Egypt’s Mayar Sherif in Melbourne.
Sherif told The National: “My doubles partner was here, I saw her here onsite, but after what happened with Djokovic, she was taken to a hotel and she is detained there.”
After the situation concerning Djokovic, Reuters had earlier reported that at least three other participants who had already travelled to the country on the basis of a similar COVID-19 vaccine exemption – and potentially more in the coming days – will have their entries re-examined.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews confirmed that cases were being investigated.
Andrews confirmed that other players or officials may have already entered under similar exemptions to the one used by Djokovic, and those cases would duly be investigated.
“I can confirm the Australian Border Force is conducting its inquiries,” she told Australia’s Channel Seven.
“I am aware that there are two individuals currently being investigated by Australian Border Force,”
Djokovic has refused to reveal his vaccination status and applied for a medical exemption, but had his visa revoked upon arrival for failing to “provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia”.
He has launched a court challenge that is due to be heard on Monday (January 10), and Reuters claims that his legal team is expected to file further reports tomorrow to support his attempts to delay his departure.
The Home Affairs Minister told ABC: “Mr Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia.
“He is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that.”
Earlier this week, Djokovic confirmed he would travel after receiving “exemption permission”, but he is now being held at an immigration hotel in Melbourne after being denied entry by Border Force officials.
Djokovic’s medical exemption, which has been reported to be a positive COVID-19 test in the past six months, was assessed by two independent panels of experts assembled by Tennis Australia and the Victoria Government.
Tennis Australia chief executive and Australian Open director Craig Tiley said 26 players had applied for an exemption to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate in place at the tournament but only “a handful” were approved.
However, the world number one’s father Srdjan Djokovic has claimed more than 20 exemptions were granted.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted that the Border Force had detailed to Tennis Australia its expectations for the entry of players in November and that a COVID-19 infection in the previous six months for unvaccinated players would not be deemed valid.
The Victoria Government’s Acting Premier Jacinta Allan claimed the governing body did not make it aware of this information.
“I’m advised that Victorian Government officials had not seen that correspondence”, Allan said, as reported by 7News.
“It reinforces that point that it is the Commonwealth Government that’s responsible for issuing visas and how they engage in that dialogue with bodies like Tennis Australia is a matter for them.”
Serbian President Aleksander Vucic has weighed into the controversy over Djokovic’s detention, commenting that the country is working to end the “harassment of the world’s best tennis player”.
Australia has implemented some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 countermeasures, with Australian Open host city Melbourne spending more than 250 days in lockdown since March 2020.
It eased its tough border controls last month, with fully vaccinated holders of eligible visas permitted to enter the country.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open men’s singles nine times, and is one victory away from a record 21st career Grand Slam title.
The Australian Open is traditionally the first Grand Slam of the calendar year and is scheduled for January 17 to 30.
Organisers confirmed in November that players at the tournament would need to be fully vaccinated, although the build-up has been dominated by uncertainty over whether stars such as Djokovic would be granted an exemption to compete.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.