Novak Djokovic warned to prepare for huge Australian Open backlash – ‘Very controversial’

Djokovic back to training in Australia after court victory

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Novak Djokovic is expected to receive a hostile reception if he is able to compete at the Australian Open. Tennis Australia granted the world No 1 a medical exemption, allowing him to compete without being fully vaccinated, but Djokovic had his visa cancelled by the federal government before winning an appeal to have the decision overturned. Former pro Barbara Schett told Express Sport that the situation was “very controversial” in Australia, with the mood among residents unsavoury towards the Serb.

Djokovic sparked controversy last Tuesday when he announced he was flying to Melbourne after being given a medical exemption, allowing him to compete in the tournament without being fully vaccinated.

After landing on Wednesday night and being taken in for overnight questioning, the Serb had his visa cancelled on Thursday as federal government states that recovery from previous Covid infection in the last six months – the basis for Djokovic’s exemption – was not valid grounds to be exempt from being fully vaccinated.

The nine-time Aussie Open champion then appealed the decision and, after spending the weekend in a government detention hotel, won his case on the grounds of “procedural fairness” and was allowed to freely enter Melbourne, though Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has the power to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time.

As Djokovic and the citizens of Australia await a final decision from Mr Hawke, retired pro and esteemed pundit Schett has opened up on the hostility felt towards the world No 1 in Australia.

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“Yeah I mean it’s the talk of the day obviously. Everybody talks about it since Novak Djokovic tried to enter Australia and we all know what has happened,” the former world No 7 said, speaking exclusively to Express Sport from the Sydney Tennis Classic.

The Austrian former tennis player, who lives Down Under with Australian husband and fellow former player Joshua Eagle, explained why locals had become increasingly frustrated with Djokovic.

She continued: “The Australian public, of course, they’re talking about it especially in Melbourne, in Victoria, everybody has an opinion and they’re not too thrilled [about] what’s happening.

“And we still haven’t heard a decision from the Immigration Minister, he’s still to come out with a statement and a lot of the Australians think that he shouldn’t be allowed into Australia because everybody has to be vaccinated here.

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“They’ve been going through a really rough time as well, especially people in Victoria. You couldn’t go from state to state, you couldn’t see your loved ones for months and months and months. It’s been rough, they were in a lockdown for 270 days and it was a pretty harsh lockdown so they don’t understand how they can let Novak Djokovic into the country.”

The Eurosport pundit also admitted that vaccinated tennis players were already receiving a privilege to compete, making the public outrage at an unvaccinated Djokovic being allowed in the country even worse.

“If you would want to go now to Australia, you wouldn’t be let in because you have to either be a citizen or you have to have a residency here, and that the players are allowed to come in is already a big exemption for the country,” she explained.

While Schett things Djokovic will still be “motivated” if the “very controversial” decision to allow him to stay in the country and compete in next week’s Australian Open is made, she expects the nine-time champion to receive a frosty reception from the crowd.

The three-time title winner added: “When he steps out on the court, if he plays now the Australian Open or not, I think also for him it will be interesting to see how the crowd will respond to that whole thing and I have a feeling, if he plays in Melbourne, if he gets to go out there on the court, the reception won’t be great.

“I think there will be a lot of people who won’t support him. There’s a big Serbian community in Melbourne and they will be obviously 100 per cent behind him but for the rest I think it’ll be very controversial and I think there could be a bit of booing happening or something like that.

“That’s my gut feeling, that’s the feeling I have from being here in Australia. I mean we’ll find out, I thought the Immigration Minister was going to come out with a statement today (Wednesday) but I think it’s going to be tomorrow (Thursday) by the sounds of it, or it has to come out in the next few days.“

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