Everybody knew about the complexities of traveling the world during a pandemic but nobody expected that a major dispute would result in the deportation of world No.1 Novak Djokovic who now faces the possibility of a ban from Australia.
The past 11 days have been some of the most extraordinary in modern tennis history with Djokovic arguing his case to be allowed to play the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19. A requirement for all arrivals in the country unless they qualify for an exemption. Djokovic received a medical exemption to play the Australian Open on the basis he tested positive for the virus in December, which was awarded to him by two medical panels in Victoria.
However, the federal authorities stated that prior-infection does not count as an acceptable reason to apply for a visa. Sparking a debate as to if Tennis Australia had been issuing incorrect information or not to players. Subsequently the Australian border force declined Djokovic’s visa and placed him in a quarantine facility. Only to have that decision reversed in the court who deemed that process behind the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was insufficient.
Returning to the tennis court in Melbourne, Djokovic still had a black cloud looming over him amid threats he could still be deported. This turned out to be the case on Friday evening when immigration minister Alex Hawke decided to cancel his visa for a second time on the grounds that the Serbian posed a ‘threat’ and could trigger an increase in civil unrest relating to the anti-vaccination movement. A second appeal was then lodged but proved unsuccessful when the Federal Court, which included three judges in this case, unanimously concluded that the legality of Hawke’s legal order to cancel the visa was lawful. Ending Djokovic’s Australian Open dreams once and for all.
“Tennis Australia respects the decision of the Federal Court.” A brief statement from the governing body reads.
In the aftermath of the case, the ATP described the fallout as a ‘deeply regrettable series of events’ as they once again reiterated their call for players to be vaccinated. According to their latest figures, 97% of the world’s top 100 have had their vaccine. The ATP oversees the running of the men’s Tour but they have no decisive power concerning the running of Grand Slams due to tennis’ somewhat complex governing system which consists of seven separate bodies.
“Today’s decision to uphold Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events. Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation,” the ATP commented.
“Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport’s greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon.”
Most players have been hesitant to weigh in on the Visa fiasco with some even expressing their frustration that the situation is overshadowing the sport. Andy Murray summarized it as “not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open and not great for Novak.” Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal said he was ‘tired of the matter’ during an interview with CNN. Nadal has also stated that the Australian Open is bigger than just one player.
Although some have spoken out about Djokovic’s deportation with the most vocal of them being from Vasek Pospisil who is the co-founder of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) along with the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
“Novak would never have gone to Australia if he had not been given an exemption to enter the country by the government (which he did receive; hence Judge Kelly’s initial ruling*). He would have skipped the Australian Open and been home with his family and no one would be talking about this mess,” Pospisil wrote on Twitter.
“There was a political agenda at play here with the elections coming up which couldn’t be more obvious. This is not his fault. He did not force his way into the country and did not “make his own rules.”
*EDITOR NOTE: Judge Kelly’s ruling was on the procedure used by border force officials to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
Nick Kyrgios used a facepalm emoji to express his disappointment with the ruling. Meanwhile, John Isner said Djokovic was ‘an absolute legend who has done good for millions around the world’ before stating that he disagrees with the ruling to deport him.
On the women’s Tour, Alize Cornet questioned the lack of public support among players towards Djokovic during his legal cases.
“What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players. But none of us stood for him,” she wrote.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert says he “100% agree” with Cornet. The Frenchman is also unvaccinated against COVID-19 and decided not to attend the Australian Open. He has also recently tested positive for the virus.
As for Djokovic, it is unclear as to where he goes from now or if he will suffer any more backlash following his visa dispute. It was revealed during the court case that he had broken COVID-19 rules in Belgrade by attending a photo shoot hours after testing positive for the virus. Something he later described as ‘an error of judgment.’ Then there are questions as to how Djokovic’s sponsors may react given that some will now perceive him to be an inspiration for the anti-vaxx movement.
Replacing Djokovic in the Australian Open draw is Italian lucky loser Salvatore Caruso, whose entry into the Grand Slam main draw is one which will be talked about for many years to come.
“I didn’t follow the case much, so it’s not my field. I’m here to play tennis, maybe I’m the most famous lucky loser in history? I feel sorry for him,” he told Sky Italia.
Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening (Melbourne time) on an Emirates flight to Dubai.
Roger Federer’s Team8 Considering Bid To Buy Cincinnati Masters Rights From USTA
The potential move has gained support from one former world No.1 player who says ‘it is nice to see responsible names’ in the mix to buy the prestigious event.
It is understood that sports and entertainment company Team8 which was co-founded by Roger Federer is looking into potentially submitting an application for ownership of the Cincinnati Masters, according to two sources.
Sports business publication Sportico and Steve Weissman from The Tennis Channel have both reported that the business is among a number of interested parties who want to buy the event that is best known as the Western and Southern Open. In February this year it was confirmed that the USTA is selling their 93.8% stake in the tournament for a ‘nine-figure sum.’ It is understood that the organization doesn’t want the event to be relocated from Cincinnati in part of any deal.
“The USTA’s Board of Directors believes now is the right time to explore potential strategic options and alternatives in order to optimize the long-term growth of the tournament and take the tournament to the next level,” the USTA said in a statement published by tennis.com.
The USTA brought the rights to the men’s event back in 2009 for $12.5M and has since spent an additional $65M. Whilst Cincinnati is a combined tournament, the ongoing negotiations only apply to the men’s section. The women’s tournament is overseen by Octagon management.
Neither Federer or a member of Team8 have commented on the reported plans. The company was founded by the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his agent Tony Godsick back in 2013. Since then they have been involved in the creation of the Laver Cup, became a ‘major investor’ in the Universal Tennis system and are a ‘strategic investor and partner’ to On Running.
Should Team8 become the new owners, questions may arise about conflicts of interest with Federer still being an active player on Tour. The 40-year-old is currently sidelined from action due to a knee injury but is aiming to stage a comeback at the Swiss Open later this year. However, former world No.1 Andy Roddick has given his full backing to the possible takeover.
“In the world of tennis, where conflicts of interest know no bounds at all, Roger can do this. He has, obviously, been a great steward for the game and has created an incredible relationship with the fans in the city of Cincinnati. You’d like to see it stay in the tennis family with someone who actually knows and loves our sport.” Roddick told The Tennis Channel.
Federer has won the Cincinnati Masters a record seven times in his career.
Daniil Medvedev ‘Happy To Play Wimbledon’ If Ban Is Lifted
The world No.2 says he is willing to speak with other players about the situation ahead of his return to action following surgery.
Daniil Medvedev says he is still hopeful that he might be able to play at this year’s Wimbledon Championships should officials at The All England Club decide to change their stance.
At present the reigning US Open champion will not be allowed to play at the grass court major due to his nationality. Officials at the Grand Slam have confirmed that Russian and Belarussian players have been banned from the event due to the war in Ukraine. Ian Hewitt, who is the chairman of The AELTC, said the action was taken in order to prevent ‘the propaganda machine of the Russian regime’ from potentially benefiting from their players’ success.
The ban is a controversial move for the sport which until now had a united approach when it came to allowing those players participate in tournaments but only as neutral athletes. Former Wimbledon champions Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokopvic and Andy Murray have all expressed some degree of opposition to the decision. Meanwhile, the ATP and WTA are considering the possibility of removing the allocation of ranking points at the event.
Speaking about the ban ahead of this week’s Geneva Open, Medvedev acknowledges that it is a ‘tricky situation’ but is still hopeful that a u-turn could occur which would allow him to play. The 26-year-old has made four main draw appearances at Wimbledon with his best result being a run to the fourth round last year.
“There has been a lot of talk around it. I just tried to follow what’s happening because I don’t have any decisions to make. It’s right now about Wimbledon itself, the ATP, maybe the British government is involved,” news agency AFP quoted Medvedev as telling reporters in Switzerland.
“It’s a tricky situation and like every situation in life, you ask 100 players, everybody’s going to give a different opinion.
“I can play: I’m going to be happy to play in Wimbledon. I love this tournament.
“I cannot play: well, I’m going to try to play other tournaments and prepare well for next year if I have the chance to play.”
The former world No.1 has been among a group of Russian players who have previously called for peace in the region. Although none of them have gone as far as publicly condemning the actions of their government. Something which has drawn criticism from Ukraine’s Elina Svitoliva.
“I had some time to follow what is happening, yeah, it’s very upsetting,” Medvedev commented on the war.
Geneva will be the first event Medvedev has played in since reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. He took time away from the Tour to undergo hernia surgery but has confirmed he intends to play at next week’s French Open despite his lack of match play on the clay.
During his time at those events, the tennis star says he is more than happy to speak with other players about the Wimbledon ban should they want to.
“Since I haven’t been on the tour, I haven’t talked to any of them face to face. It was the first time when I came here on Saturday when I can talk to players, and if they start talking about this, we can discuss,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly what’s happening, what’s going to happen, if there are going to be more decisions made.
“Same about Wimbledon. I don’t know if this decision is 100 percent, and it’s over.”
Granted a bye in the first round, Medvedev will start his Geneva campaign against either Richard Gasquet or John Millman.
Conquering the world: Carlos Alcaraz beats Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic to cement Barcelona-Madrid titles (Part Two)
Carlos Alcaraz will now look to translate his success from the ATP Tour to Roland Garros.
In part one, I assessed how Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz continues to take the tennis world by storm after his victory in Barcelona.
Now I turn my attentions to his success in another famous Spanish city.
Madrid Masters victory
Alcaraz again began his Madrid Masters campaign in style, beating the dangerous Georgian Nicoloz Basilashvili in straight sets.
A stern test came in the form of Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who pushed the birthday boy that day to three sets.
Alcaraz moving through 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with his idol Rafa Nadal.
Now, some context is needed that the 21-time Grand Slam was appearing in his first tournament back since recovering from a rib injury.
An opening round win against Serbian Miomir Kecmanović was backed up with a tight three-set triumph over Belgian David Goffin, with the veteran Spaniard saving four match points.
To his credit, Nadal pushed his young apprentice all the way, before going down 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, with the second set showing his obvious quality, despite being partially fit.
If this moment was a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis, then Alcaraz’s impressive win over Novak Djokovic could point to the man who may dominant the future of tennis.
The world number one was fortunate to play a match less, after the shock withdrawal of old rival Murray in the third-round.
But he was no match for the imperious Alcaraz who triumphed at front of the delighted home support, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).
The first player ever to beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back on a clay court in the history of tennis.
And Alcaraz made it a highly commendable 5-0 in finals, destroying Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1, with little challenge unlike the previous encounters with Norrie, Nadal and Djokovic.
James Spencer (Twitter: @jspencer28) – Alcaraz Verdict
In truth, I had a sneaky feeling that Alcaraz would triumph in Barcelona.
The way he is playing with such finesse and confidence, particularly against the Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas, was incredible to see.
Saving match points against Alex de Minaur, also showed his mettle.
He also has an unbelievable shot selection and fitness levels.
Beating Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back is no easy feat.
Often just one win knocks the stuffing out of you, mentally and physically, but not for this kid.
Alcaraz doesn’t get carried away. And this has been shown consistently this season.
Winning the Miami Masters could have led to a drop in motivation, yet he has looked even more motivated if anything.
He’s performed on hard-court and clay court surfaces with an assuring dominance.
In fact, he is unbeaten on clay this season, losing three times in total all season.
Matteo Berrettini in five at the Australian Open.
Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells in a tight three sets, that ultimately injured the elder Spaniard, which could have ramifications on his entire fitness this season, and the destination of the French Open trophy.
And a close three-set defeat to up and coming youngster Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo.
The new world number six must surely be the new favourite to WIN the French Open later this month.
Skipping the Italian Open should help the 19-year-old heal any niggling injuries.
If he does win in Paris, he will be the youngest Grand Slam champion since you guessed it, Nadal.
Only time will tell.
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