Andy Murray expressed concern for Novak Djokovic on Sunday, saying that other players were shocked and the circumstances surrounding the world No. 1’s barred entry into Australia was “really not good for tennis”.
The Serb was hoping to win a record 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open later this month, but instead of training he has been confined to a room in a hotel in Melbourne used to accommodate asylum seekers.
Djokovic, 34, is challenging the decision to cancel his visa after being stopped on arrival at Melbourne Airport early on Thursday, and a hearing into the case will be held on Monday.
“I think everyone is shocked by it, to be honest,” former world No. 1 Murray said. “I hope that Novak is OK. I know him well, and I’ve always had a good relationship with him and I hope that he’s OK.It’s really not good for tennis at all, and I don’t think it’s good for anyone involved.”
Djokovic, who has publicly criticised mandatory vaccines, has consistently refused to disclose his inoculation status and said he had been granted a medical exemption to compete in Australia.
Australian Open chief Craig Tiley blamed conflicting and quickly changing directives in a “challenging environment” for the confusion that resulted in Djokovic being refused entry to the country on a medical exemption.
“(I need to) wait and hear exactly what the situation is before commenting on it further, because again I don’t think it’s fair because some of it is speculation,” Murray said.
Meanwhile, the Australian government had not given Djokovic an assurance that a medical exemption that he said he had to enter Australia without a COVID-19 vaccination would be accepted, government lawyers said in a court filing on Sunday.
The filing ahead of a court hearing on Monday was in defence of the government’s decision to bar entry to the player.
Djokovic had declined to reveal his vaccination status or reason for seeking a medical exemption from Australia’s vaccination rules. But his legal team said in a filing to the court on Saturday that the player had been granted an exemption due to having had the virus in December.
Djokovic’s legal team said he had the necessary permissions to enter Australia, including an assessment from the Department of Home Affairs that responses on his travel declaration form indicated he met the conditions for quarantine-free arrival. The government disputed this.
“This is because there is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia. Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa,” the government’s filing said.
It said the department’s email was not an assurance “that his so-called ‘medical exemption’ would be accepted”, and his responses could be questioned and verified on his arrival.
The government also challenged Djokovic’s claim for a medical exemption on the basis he had contracted COVID-19 and had recovered two weeks later.
“There is no suggestion that the applicant had “acute major medical illness” in December 2021. All he has said is that he tested positive for COVID-19. This is not the same,” the filing said.
Australia says its health department notified tournament organising body Tennis Australia in November that a recent COVID-19 infection was not necessarily grounds for exemption in the country, as it is elsewhere. Djokovic’s lawsuit says the Department of Home Affairs wrote to him this month to say he had satisfied the requirements to enter the country.