Athlete Booted from Country Over Vaccine Status Comes Back 1 Year Later with Vengeance and Wins Big


One year ago, Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia because the country’s vaccine scolds refused to let the world’s No. 1 tennis player participate in the Australian Open unless he took the jab.

Never mind that he’d been previously infected with the COVID-19 virus. Never mind that he posed little risk to himself or anyone else. In 2022, fear won out — and, with Djokovic sent home, Rafael Nadal won.

At the time, this meant Nadal broke the three-way tie for all-time men’s major singles titles between him, Djokovic and Roger Federer. After Sunday, two of those individuals are tied at 22 singles titles each, Eurosport noted, thanks to Djokovic’s victorious return to the country that booted him out last year.

Djokovic won a straight-sets victory over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, according to CNN. It was his 10th victory at the Australian Open, making him the second man to win more than 10 titles at one grand slam event. Also, for a record-extending 374th week, it meant Djokovic retained his No. 1 world ranking in men’s singles.

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And yet, it could have been win number 11 for Djokovic — and the significance of returning to Australia one year after the country fought tooth-and-nail to get him sent home over his refusal to buy into groupthink made it “probably the biggest victory of my life considering the circumstances,” the Serbian tennis great said after the victory in Melbourne.

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“Of course, when I went into my box, I just think emotionally collapsed there and teared up with especially my mother and my brother, when I gave them a hug, because up to that moment I was not allowing myself to, I guess, be distracted with things off the court or whatever was happening in dealing with an injury, things happening off the court, as well, that could easily have been a big disturbance to my focus, to my game,” the 35-year-old Djokovic said during his media briefing after the win, CNN reported.

“It required an enormous mental energy really to stay present, to stay focused, to take things day by day, and really see how far I can go.”

CNN being CNN, the outlet buried the lede, refusing to even mention the reason for the emotional victory until the seventh paragraph: “Last year, Djokovic was unable to defend his title after being deported from the country over his COVID-19 vaccination status.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, while the head of Tennis Australia — the governing body for the sport in the land of Oz — informed unvaccinated players like Djokovic that an exemption to strict guidelines would be granted to those with a recent COVID-19 infection, the federal government fought the decision to allow him into the country.

According to Australian Lawyer Magazine, he was initially denied entry by border officials when he arrived in Australia on Jan. 5, 2022. A Federal Circuit Court initially overturned the decision to cancel his visa, but the Federal Court finally decided against allowing him to enter on Jan. 16 after Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke personally intervened.

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“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” said then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said that border protections were “fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law.”

Finally, a case for strong borders that lefties around the world could get behind. Never mind that Morrison was head of what was supposed to be Australia’s right-wing coalition. Also never mind that nobody was under the impression letting Djokovic in presented any kind of threat in a physical sense. Rather, the government’s case against allowing him to compete is that he would stir up “some measure of unrest” among those opposed to the country’s vaccine mandates.

In making the case against Djokovic, Stephen Lloyd, the lawyer representing Immigration Minister Hawke, said the tennis player was “a high-profile person and in many respects, is a role model for many people.”

In other words: He won’t do as he’s told, so maybe the plebes will have the gumption to not do what they’re told to do. Just in case you didn’t hate virus technocrats enough already and weren’t paying close attention when this all went down for the first time, there you go.

Suffice it to say that, in between January of 2022 and January of 2023, Australian politicians finally gave up on pandemic theater, allowing Djokovic to return to the first major of the tennis calendar after a three-year visa ban against him was overturned — but not without making more of a folk hero out of the tennis great.

For his part, Djokovic said he “can’t forget those events, it’s one of those things that stick with you.”

“It stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and hopefully never again, but it is a valuable life experience for me,” he said during one of his first news conferences in Australia in late December of 2022, according to Reuters.

“But I have to move on and coming back to Australia speaks about how I feel about this country and how I feel about playing here,” he added.

Suffice it to say that his emotional victory also carried some weight for those fighting pandemic theater globally, as well.

“One year after being banned from Australia for refusing to take the worthless covid shot, @DjokerNole wins the Aussie Open,” conservative sports personality Clay Travis tweeted. “This is what actual bravery, conviction, & validation looks like. Love it. Novak is the GOAT & he was 100% right on the covid shot.”

“Congratulations to Novak Djokovic for winning the Australian Open!” tweeted American conservative activist Charlie Kirk. “This year he wins the trophy and will become the No. 1 men’s tennis player in the world. Last year the Australian government deported him for not being vaccinated. Freedom is always worth fighting for.”

Avi Yemini of Rebel News Australia noted that “[s]ome people are demanding we ‘move on’ from Novak Djokovic being deported and ‘just enjoy his win.’

“No way,” he said. “Novak sacrificed everything ‘because the principles of decision-making on my body are more important than any title.’ He’s EARNED our gloating.”

And one Twitterer may have summed it up best: “Victory is sweetest when it is a moral victory as well as a sporting win.”

And now the ball is proverbially in the Biden administration’s court. See, of all the countries that host the four tennis majors — Australia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States — America, land of the free and the home of the brave, is still the only one that won’t allow Djokovic in.

According to Reuters, U.S. authorities have extended a vaccine requirement for foreign air travelers until at least April 10 — and might keep on extending it. Djokovic missed the 2022 U.S. Open, which is held in the fall, after losing in the quarterfinals in France to Nadal and then winning at Wimbledon in the U.K.

Tommy Haas, the director of the Indian Wells Open in California in March, told Reuters it would be a “disgrace” if the world’s No. 1 player weren’t allowed to compete. U.S. authorities still want to take the same hard stance that Australian officials did.

Go right ahead, though. After all, the only thing the virus scolds are doing is building a bigger folk hero.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture