Spain urges Djokovic to lead by example and get vaccinated

MADRID, Spain — Tennis star Novak Djokovic should lead by example and get vaccinated against COVID-19, Spanish government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said on Tuesday, January 18, when asked if he had to be allowed to compete in Spain where vaccination is not compulsory.

The world No. 1 was kicked out of Australia on Sunday ahead of the Australian Open after entering the country unvaccinated on a medical exemption.

“What Mr. Djokovic needs to do is get vaccinated, that would be the most sensible thing to do,” Rodriguez told a news conference.

“Leading by example is important and that’s what the great athletes of our country do. For example, Mr. (Rafael) Nadal,” she added, referring to one of Djokovic’s great rivals with whom he is tied on 20 major titles.

Although vaccination is not compulsory in Spain, the vaccination rate is one of the highest in Europe.

Djokovic regularly travels to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella. He spent a few days there in late December and early January and video footage showed him training there.

Spanish rules currently require people to show either a vaccine certificate, a negative PCR test or a COVID-19 recovery certificate to enter the country, so Djokovic should be able to compete in the Mutua Madrid Open between April 26 and April 8. may. He tested positive for COVID-19 in December.

Madrid don’t have any specific coronavirus-related rules for taking part in sporting events.

France have said they will be banned from playing at Roland Garros in May as things stand due to a new vaccine pass law.

Djokovic is now in his native Serbia, where he was welcomed as a hero.

“Our Champion”

Djokovic found a warm welcome back in Serbia on Monday after Australia expelled the men’s tennis world No. of the Grand Slam.

Most Australians wanted him gone, but Serbian fans cheered and waved national flags as Djokovic landed at Belgrade airport and then walked to his own apartment.

“You are our champion, Novak!” and “We love you, Nole!” they chanted, using an affectionate diminutive.

The 34-year-old ‘King of Melbourne’ had won nine previous Australian Opens, is tied with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 titles, and was the men’s top seed for the tournament which started on Monday.

But instead of starting his title defense as planned at Melbourne Park, he flew to Belgrade via Dubai after being twice held in a hotel with asylum seekers and then rudely deported by Australian immigration .

“Whoever wins now doesn’t really count,” said Alek Drakoo, a member of Australia’s Serbian community, disappointed not to see him in Melbourne.

The Australian government’s decision was in line with mainstream public opinion, but authorities drew attention to the chaotic handling of the issue.

“I’m uncomfortable that the focus has been on me for the last few weeks and I hope we can all now focus on the game and the tournament that I love,” Djokovic said, expressing his disappointment but his respect for a court ruling against him.

Back to Australia?

Under Australian law, he cannot return for three years unless the Immigration Minister agrees there are compelling or compassionate reasons. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hinted there may be a way to let him in next year.

“There is the possibility for (a person) to return under the right circumstances, and it will be considered at that time,” he told 2GB radio.

The Australian Federal Court’s decision to uphold the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa – originally granted on a medical exemption as he had recently had COVID-19 – has shocked his family and supporters who describe him as a persecuted outsider.

“I think he went down in history as a hero, as a man and as a fighter against this evil called corona-circus,” Marko Strugalovic, 60, told AFP. Belgrade airport.

Djokovic was first arrested by immigration authorities on January 6, released by a court on January 10 and then detained again on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s hearing.

He wore a mask and took selfies with fans while transiting Dubai, but avoided fans and media at Belgrade airport, heading straight to his apartment in the Novi Beograd district.

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had said Djokovic could pose a threat to public order as his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment.

His case has fueled a global debate over the right to refuse vaccinations as authorities around the world push this as the main route out of the two-year pandemic that has killed 5.5 million people. –