Novak Djokovic or Novaxx Djocovid: Where Professional Sports and Politics Collide

Novak Djokovic walking in Melbourne Airport after his visa was canceled.

Novak Djokovic walking in Melbourne Airport after his visa was canceled.

McKenna Houston

Novak Djokovic, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, is no stranger to controversy. From disqualification at the U.S. Open for hitting a line judge to accusations of faking injuries during difficult matches, Djokovic has frequently found himself at the center of negative headlines. But the drama surrounding his participation in 2022’s Australian Open has put him squarely in the center of a Covid 19 storm that doesn’t appear to be blowing over. 


Djokovic has faced criticism since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, starting with his statement that he is “anti-vaccination.” Regardless of any negative attention, though, Djokovic sailed to victory in the 2021 Australian Open, Wimbledon, and French Open tournaments, only narrowly missing a coveted Grand Slam when he was defeated in the final round of the U.S. Open. 


The 2022 Australian Open, however, came with a new set of challenges for those opposed to vaccination. In order to enter Australia, visitors must either be fully vaccinated or qualify for a medical exemption from vaccination. Although Tennis Australia felt that Djokovic qualified for an exemption, the Australian government disagreed (TODAY). 


What ensued was a days-long legal battle between Djokovic and the Australian government, which ended in an appellate court upholding Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa on public interest grounds. Djokovic was deported on January 16, and there is speculation that his deportation order includes a three-year ban from entering Australia (ESPN)


Although Djokovic drew crowds of supporters, the majority of Australia indicated their agreement with his deportation. Ramapo students are similarly divided. 


“I thought Djokovic should have been permitted to stay since he was already in Melbourne practicing on the courts a day before the tournament began, but it’s just the world we live in right now…” says Anna Shtern, a player for the Ramapo’s JV girls tennis team from the class of 2025. “Covid has obviously been influencing everyone’s lives and now with the release of the Covid vaccine there are many other factors for people around the world to consider. Also, I think that many political, social, and financial decisions led to the events that took place from both sides that the people just don’t know about.”


On the other hand, Cadie Sauter, a freshman on Ramapo’s girls varsity tennis team explains, “Getting the vaccine or having Covid during a certain amount of time is the rules and he didn’t follow them. I believe that he is a great player but he is not above the rules that every other tennis player has to follow.”


It remains to be seen whether Djokovic will be able to participate in other majors in 2022. And only time will tell whether he will ultimately be remembered for his tennis skills or for his vaccine stance.