Will Djoković play in Australia after all?

A court in Melbourne has upheld the appeal of tennis world number one Novak Djoković after he was prevented from entering Australia. Djoković was on his way to compete in the Australian Open with an exemption to Covid vaccination requirements, but was detained by border guards for not being vaccinated. Australia's government is now considering whether to cancel Djoković's visa nonetheless. Europe's press closely follows the affair.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Becoming a hate figure for many

If Djokovic does end up competing he will feel the fury of the people of Melbourne, predicts the Tages-Anzeiger.

“The world number one has become a symbol of egocentricity, intransigence, inequality and a global leader of anti-vaxxers. The fact that he can use dubious evidence and the sophistry of expensive lawyers to push through a vaccination exemption while hundreds of thousands of Australians have been virtually locked up for months because of the virus will reignite the huge anger against him already felt last week. If he actually ends up striding into Rod Laver Arena to play, an uproar is guaranteed.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Megalomania instead of true greatness

The tennis star has ruined his image, Corriere del Ticino judges:

“In his megalomania - which is solely based on his talented use of the tennis racket - there is no room for reflection, not to mention rethinking his stance. ... Should he be allowed to take part, Djokovic could raise the Norman Brookes Trophy to the sky with a huge smile on his face in just under three weeks. But at what price? His image, already hardly spotless, could be damaged even further. Yes, perhaps Nole can fulfil his dream of winning more Grand Slams than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Tennis may some day remember him as the strongest player of all time. But he will never be the greatest.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Respect for human rights

The Djokovic case is also relevant to the highly topical issue of how people are treated at borders, says The Guardian:

“The judge asked not whether vaccination is a good idea, but what the tennis player should have done that he failed to do. There was no answer, leaving the judge 'agitated' by the tennis player’s 'manifestly unjust' treatment. ... Ever more nations on every continent are seeing these borders weaken and break. How they respond will have a dramatic effect on international relations as well as human rights. For every Djokovic at the gate there will be hundreds of thousands whose cases go unheard. Therein lies his relevance.”

Kurier (AT) /

A microcosm of today's world

The Djokovic affair shows what bitter rifts vaccination is causing worldwide:

“The interest in this case reaches far beyond the tennis world, because it's indicative of much that is going wrong in the Covid crisis. ... Today, as soon as the words vaccination or restrictions are mentioned, opponents retreat into their trenches and fire salvos of verbal mortar shells. A conflict can arise from any incident (no matter how small). The virus is only the occasion for it, the accelerant. The deep mistrust of others, of those who think differently, of those who look different, was already there before.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Conspiracy theories instead of arguments

La Vanguardia detects excessive nationalism in the affair:

“[Another interesting aspect] is the reaction of many Serbs who have demonstrated for their compatriot because they feel he has been humiliated with the ban on entering Australia. Clearly they also feel offended. Conspiracy theories mixed with excessive nationalism make for a cocktail that is hard to digest. ... Underlying both is the desire to set oneself apart and identify supposed enemies. The Serbs who are protesting these days attach too much importance to themselves, like the tennis player himself.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Farewell to reason

It's particulary alarming when healthy people are being banned from all activity, Phileleftheros fumes:

“A perfectly healthy athlete is being deprived of his right to compete and defend his title, just as [Greek tennis star] Stefanos Tsitsipas was forced to be vaccinated so that he could go on playing tennis. But the absurdity doesn't stop at the obligation to be vaccinated but extends to even the type of vaccine. Take the case of the Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva, for example, who was excluded because she had been vaccinated with Sputnik! In the past two years the world has bid farewell to reason.”

Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Pawn sacrifice in election campaign

Djokovic doesn't deserve this treatment, says the Aargauer Zeitung:

“He boarded the plane believing that he fulfilled the requirements for entry. That may have been naïve - perhaps even out of touch with reality - but it was certainly not his intention to trigger a diplomatic scandal. Djokovic wants to play tennis and break records. ... Public anger and outrage over his being exempted from mandatory vaccination has taken politicians by surprise. And the very controversial Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recognised the issue as a chance to make his mark. ... Whether his plan will work out in view of the parliamentary elections in May remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: Morrison has sacrificed Djokovic like a pawn.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Le roi c'est moi

No one is left looking good here, Corriere del Ticino points out:

“Starting with the main character, the current world tennis king. This isn't the first time he's been guilty of misconduct in relation to the pandemic, according to the motto 'Le roi, c'est moi'. ... And then there's his father - who called on people to take to the streets in Melbourne to free his imprisoned son - the tennis team, the Serbian authorities: all incapable of looking at today's world through the lens of common sense. They're blinded by Djokovic's celebrity and driven by the sickening certainty that VIP status grants privileges to which ordinary mortals have no access.”

Club Z (BG) /

The rules don't apply for Balkan stars

Djokovic is from the Balkans so the rules don't apply to him, Club Z jokes:

“Don't they know you're from the Balkans - the centre of the earth, the place where the Big Bang happened? What are they thinking, demanding that you obey their laws and get vaccinated! Nobody cares about the law in the Balkans, where the vaccine is nothing more than a dubious liquid, and that's it! The whole of the Balkans is looking at you now, Nole! You are our last hope! Only you and your tennis racket can smack the stupid Westerners - well, Australia is in the East, but never mind - and get them to stop this vaccine slavery.”