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Dissenting Djokovic joined by Czech player in Australian deportation hotel

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In picture above: Supporters of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic and pro-refugee protestors rally outside the Park Hotel, where the star athlete is believed to be held while he stays in Australia, in Melbourne, Australia, January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

Tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic will not be the only one being deported from Australia.

He was joined by Czech women’s player Renata Voracova on Friday in a row over COVID-19 vaccines.

This could scupper the Serbian’s shot at a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.

Both players were being kept at the modest Park Hotel in inner-city Melbourne, where scores of asylum seekers are also housed behind grey walls and locked windows.

EditPro | Lagos Metropolitan newspaper Aug 4, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Renata Voracova of Czech Republic hits a shot against Alison Riske of the United States (not pictured) during the qualifications in the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at IGA Stadium. Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike Djokovic, whose determination to resist deportation and play in the Australian Open has rallied his homeland, 81st-ranked Voracova planned to leave after being caught in similar circumstances, the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Renata Voracova decided to drop out of the tournament due to limited possibilities for training and to leave Australia,” it said, adding that it had made a diplomatic protest and that several other players were caught in the same situation.

Djokovic, who opposes mandatory vaccinations and was widely criticised in 2020 for hosting a tournament as the pandemic was first raging, was held at the airport on Wednesday. Authorities revoked a visa granted on the basis of a medical exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination requirements.

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The Australian Border Force (ABF) said on Friday that one person had voluntarily left Australia while a third person’s visa had also been cancelled. It did not give names.

The initial decision to grant Djokovic entry outraged many in Australia, which is battling its worst surge of infections and where the adult vaccination rate is more than 90%.

Canberra rejected on Friday suggestions by Serbian supporters, including Djokovic’s family, that he was a prisoner. “He is free to leave at any time that he chooses,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews told reporters.

Djokovic’s lawyers won legal approval for him to remain until a full court hearing against the federal government on Monday. That should reveal more details about the exemption granted to Djokovic and the documentation he provided at the border to support it. read more

The player on Friday took to Instagram to thank his supporters around the world amid the visa row.

“Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,” he wrote.

The Australian Open begins on Jan. 17, but the multi-millionaire superstar sportsman is constrained from training as he sits in a hotel where one Iranian detainee said he had found maggots and mould in the bread.

Djokovic, 34, has not revealed the grounds for his exemption and has consistently refused to disclose his vaccination status. Vaccines are not mandatory in Australia but are required for some activities.

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