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What the ‘Djokovic Affair’ Revealed About Australia

The Daily

The New York Times

News, Daily News

4.597.8K Ratings

🗓️ 21 January 2022

⏱️ 31 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 player in men’s tennis, had a lot at stake going into this year’s Australian Open. A win there would have made him the most decorated male tennis player in history. But he arrived in the country without having had a Covid-19 vaccination, flying in the face of Australia’s rules, and after a court battle he was ultimately deported. In Australia, the “Djokovic affair” has become about a lot more than athletes and vaccines — it has prompted conversations about the country’s aggressive border policy, isolationism and treatment of migrants.

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From the New York Times, I'm Annie Coriel. This is The Daily.


Today, in most places, Australia's decision to deport the world's number one


men's tennis player looked like a controversy over athletes and the


COVID-19 vaccine. To the people of Australia, it became something different.


I spoke with my colleague, Australia Bureau Chief Damian Cave.


It's Friday, January 21st.


So Damian, over the last few weeks, I saw a lot of headlines about Novak Chokovic and


the Australian Open. And to be honest, my initial reaction was, okay, here's another


elite athlete whose vaccine status has caused this big commotion. But I'm


hoping you can help me understand the play by play. How we got to this point where


the tournament is in full swing, and Chokovic is not there. He's actually been


deported. Yeah, I mean, it's really been quite a dramatic saga. I mean, the Australian


Open is the first grand slam of the year. It's one of the biggest tennis events


in the world. And Novak Chokovic is the number one men's player in the world.


And he planned to come and hopefully win what would be his 21st grand slam, which


would make him the most winningest male tennis player in history. So for him, there


was a lot of stake. But you know, there's a big challenge for Chokovic, which is that


he's coming to Australia, which is a country that has a vaccine mandate for everyone


coming in. So you can't get into Australia unless you're vaccinated. And he hadn't


really been very clear about his vaccination status. He was pretty cagey about it.


And then at the last second or pretty close to when he arrives, he says, Oh, I got an


exemption to the mandate based on the fact that he said he had COVID in mid-December.


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