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Djokovic wins in court, but its not yet game, set, match

Will he get to play on court at the AO?

By Ricky Browne

I am a big fan of Wimbledon and watch it pretty much every year – and I’ve been to see it in real life at least three times.

But I’ve never been to any of the other three big tennis tournaments – the US Open in New York, the French Open in Paris or the Australia Open in Melbourne. In fact I’ve rarely even watched them on TV, except maybe for the US Open a few times.

But this year, starved of sports entertainment, or any entertainment at all really, I find myself eagerly looking forward to the AO for the very first time – particularly if Novak (NoVax) Djokovic is successful in his bid to get onto the court to defend his title.

Actually, I’ve never been a big fan of Serbia’s Djokovic either, preferring the two other champions, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, and Switzerland’s Roger Federer. The big tennis personalities of generations past, such as John McEnroe and Andre Agassi and Boris Becker as a 17-year-old star are virtually unknown by many of today’s tennis fans.

Supporters of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic rally in the street outside what is believed to be the location of his lawyer’s office during an ongoing day of legal proceedings over the cancellation of his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

But Djokovic is showing himself to have more gumption than all of those stars put together, fighting the Australian Government in the court in his quest to get on the court.

And today he has been successful, with the Australian court finding that he has the right to stay in Australia, even though he apparently has not been vaccinated against Covid. His fans have been celebrating, particularly his Serbian fans in Melbourne, but also back in Belgrade and indeed his fans all around the world.

But though he may have won this first set in the court, the match is not yet over, as the Australian Government is saying that they may remove his visa and remove him anyway on new grounds.

Today the Court cleared Djokovic – but really on a technicality. So a question mark still remains on whether or not the world number one will get a chance to play in the AO, despite his victory.

“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened,I want to stay and try to compete

@AustralianOpen

I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans,” Djokovic tweeted earlier today.

The tennis star has managed to find his way to a tennis court, where he has started to practice. He released a photo of that with his tweet., getting some 84,000 likes after two hours.

Djokovic released this photo of himself on a tennis court in Melbourne, after winning in court

“For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong,” he added.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to view this issue as a vote-winning one – or a losing one, if Djokovic is allowed to play. Many Australians, who have faced greater Covid restrictions than most other nations – particularly in Melbourne – do not want Djokovic to get a free pass, making a mockery of all they have faced.

Morrison hasn’t tweeted on the subject today. His last tweet on the subject clearly outlined his thoughts, however.

“Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant,” he tweeted on January 5, getting 59,000 likes – about 25,000 less than Djokovic’s if that means anything.

But millions of tennis fans across the world would like nothing more than to see Djokovic on the courts, in his effort to make history as the most celebrated tennis star in recent years. If he wins another major title, he will have surpassed both Federer and Nadal, who like him, currently hold 20 major titles.

Djokovic says he’s concentrating on his tennis now

So this AO was already set to be of extreme interest, to those who are invested in those three stars – though Federer is currently on the side lines.

But this battle will have increased interest to the nth degree – so that even lukewarm fans like me are looking forward to a tournament featuring Nadal and Djokovic.

If Djokovic is denied the chance to play – which looks possible, maybe even likely – there will be a lot less interest in this year’s AO.

But that interest will be boosted for the next big tournament that Djokovic plays in. That may mean him eating some humble pie and taking the vaccine, although France has already said he will be able to play in their Open, vaccine or not.

Having lasted this long without taking the vaccine, its unlikely that Djokovic is going to be bullied by foreign states into taking it now. That could mean the end of his career.

On the other hand, as the UK prepares to enter an endemic stage of this disease – leaving the pandemic stage – where the population has to learn to just live (or die) with it as they do the flu, what will be the point of demanding that incoming visitors be vaccinated?

What is the point of demanding that now, in a country like Australia where the vast majority of people are fully vaccinated?

The point is the upcoming general elections in Australia. As might be expected not all Australians agree with the Prime Minister’s position. That includes former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“Morrison just lost his case against #Djokovic. Total incompetence! Like on everything else. If they seriously didn’t want him, why on earth did they give him a visa to fly here? This was conceived as one giant distraction strategy when out in the real world people can’t get tested,” Rudd tweeted earlier today.

So the world waits to see if Djokovic has won the right to defend his AO title. If he has, many tennis fans may rejoice, but many Australians may express even more anger, and take it out on a Prime Minister who said ‘Rules are rules”.

What kind of reaction Djokovic will get from Australian tennis fans if he steps onto an AO court remains to be seen. If it happens, I’ll be tuning in. But Djokovic has already demonstrated his resilience to criticism (justified or not) and it could even boost his playing ability, more than a booster shot could ever boost his defences against Covid.

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