Australia

MARTIN SAMUEL: Novak Djokovic is a loser whether he wins his appeal or not

Ultimately, it’s a mess. Even now, almost a week later. We hardly know anymore whether Novak Djokovic will still be in the draw next Monday. Slightly closer to finding out if he’ll be detained, deported, or defend his title.

It’s an avoidable, unuplifting mess. Australia didn’t want him in Melbourne, and should have made that clear a long time ago. Instead, the hosts granted him a visa and almost immediately regretted it. So now, here we are again. Back in blacked-out vans, back to Melbourne’s Federal Circuit and Family Court, before Judge O’Callaghan, with more legal arguments to come.

But not back at the Australian Open. Not yet. For now, Djokovic’s visa remains revoked and Alex Hawke, immigration minister, hopes to have succeeded where many opponents have failed to oust Djokovic from the first Grand Slam of the year.

Novak Djokovic could be detained, deported or defend his Australian Open title next week

Novak Djokovic could be detained, deported or defend his Australian Open title next week

Djokovic's visa was revoked again on Friday and he will spend the weekend in the detention center

Djokovic’s visa was revoked again on Friday and he will spend the weekend in the detention center

An interview was scheduled for Saturday at 8am in Melbourne, with further court proceedings scheduled for Sunday at 9am. As always, Djokovic will not leave without a fight. But even his expensively assembled legal team led by Nick Wood SC cannot guarantee victory this time around.

Australia assigns near-absolute power to its immigration minister, and the amount of time Hawke spent making the decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa suggests a man who makes sure every I and T is dotted and crossed. Not to mention the even greater care that goes into each F. and oh.

But if Djokovic is doomed in his struggle against unshakable state power, don’t forget who brought us here. Djokovic wanted to play in Australia, but he didn’t want to play by the Australian rules. He was a truth-seeker, who didn’t seem quite married to the truth. And he was seeking justice and the good of society, while reserving the right to behave as he damn well wanted.

So while it wasn’t a great week for the administration, from the borders to the ministry, it was worse for the world’s best tennis player and self-proclaimed champion of the unvaccinated masses.

The world's No. 1 is determined not to give up Australian Open odds without a fight

The world’s No. 1 is determined not to give up Australian Open odds without a fight

What Djokovic hoped would be considered a position of principle fell apart as much of his advocacy for accession crumbled. He appeared in public when he should have been in quarantine, his application saying he hadn’t traveled when, even his positive test contained confusing anomalies, on analysis. The QR code sometimes read negative, others positive.

There seemed to be confusion about dates. Djokovic went from appearing as an innocent victim of Australia’s cold, faceless immigration system to a visitor bent on playing it. Play on his fame, to get special treatment. And that’s a terrible look, for the majority.

“What else could this man have done?” pleaded a sympathetic judge Kelly, at the beginning of the week. A lot, it turns out. He could have stayed home when he tested positive. He could have worn a mask. He could have taken responsibility for filling out, or at least supervising, his immigration forms so that no easy whereabouts mistakes were made.

Above all, like 97 percent of his contemporaries, he could have been vaccinated as Australia requires, or stayed away, as some have done. He chose a different path and it is one that led us here.

Djokovic had the choice between being vaccinated or staying away from Australia (photo: Serb who boarded his flight to Melbourne earlier this month)

Djokovic had the choice between being vaccinated or staying away from Australia (photo: Serb who boarded his flight to Melbourne earlier this month)

The government’s mistake was not to see what was coming. Not realizing that the moment they made an exception for the most prominent anti-vaxxer in the world, they risked his presence dividing their community. This is the conclusion Secretary Hawke appears to have finally reached and it is the conclusion that Djokovic’s counsel will follow this weekend. After all, as argued yesterday, there is no evidence that the anti-vax community will be less vocal or volatile if Djokovic leaves the country.

The damage has been done and many will almost certainly still be protesting on his behalf. It could be said that the best chance of keeping the peace is to let him stay. Nothing is more certain to “excite” anti-vax sentiment than deportation.

But that ignores the depth of feeling against Djokovic now. Protesters make noise, but it is the silent majority sitting at home smoking. And these are the people Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs for reelection. The damage done by the steady trickle of Djokovic’s missteps and deception, intentional or not, is what he cannot ignore.

Anyway, if Djokovic shows up on a tennis court this week, the mood will be riotous. Furious Serbian exiles and anti-government, anti-vax protesters on one side, a majority of Melburnians on the other. Even his famous gesture, in which he mimics while throwing his heart to the crowd, will come across as hostile to some after his public appearances, while he is positive. What does he send: love or infection?

Should Djokovic play in the tournament next week, there will likely be outrage in the stands

Should Djokovic play in the tournament next week, there will likely be outrage in the stands

There are plenty of precedents for banning visitors in the name of the good order, as Hawke intends. David Icke is currently banned from Australia for comments considered Holocaust denial, while Kent Heckenlively, a controversial American author, and Polly Tommey, reportedly an expert on autism, have both been banned for promoting stances against vaccination.

The idiot Katie Hopkins bragged publicly about violating the quarantine rules and was kicked out. Now that we’ve found time to veto this publicity-hungry nobody, it’s hard to believe that a man with Djokovic’s profile and views was initially welcomed.

For one fact remains. Shortly before yesterday’s hearing – basically a meeting about another meeting – was adjourned, Judge Kelly said Covid has had a huge impact on the lives of people in Australia and around the world, in terms of physical and mental health. and economy.

Vaccination rules were therefore a matter of public order. That is why he wanted the case to be heard in a higher court. But his words also spoke of more. They spoke of the outrage felt at those who don’t play fair, at those who endanger others, who want to live by their own rules. We have that outrage here around the festive season at No. 10. For the majority of Australians, the same selfishness is encapsulated in Djokovic.

Djokovic tried to play the nice guy in his L'Equipe interview debacle - but made it worse

Djokovic tried to play the nice guy in his L’Equipe interview debacle – but made it worse

Take his statement for skipping quarantine to attend an interview and photoshoot with French sports newspaper L’Equipe, and for not wearing a mask for some of the interaction. Djokovic said he did not want to let the journalist down. He played the nice guy.

Yet there isn’t a sportswriter or photographer on the planet who wouldn’t understand the need to rearrange that appointment. Not someone who wouldn’t accept contracting Covid as the most legitimate reason to delay.

Journalists have worn masks all year round, obeyed yellow, green and red zones in arenas, and conducted interviews via Zoom. And Djokovic will know this. He will have seen tennis writers from a distance, he will be aware of areas reserved for competitors only, he will have spoken on Zoom with people working from home or in distant media rooms.

It is unfathomable that a sense of duty compelled him to meet with the media while he may have been contagious with Covid. The then Serbian law dictated that he should have been quarantined for a period of 14 days. It is ridiculous to claim that he kept the nomination out of the goodness of his heart.

Against this background, Djokovic will enter the third round of the Federal Court on Sunday. Both parties are confident. Win or lose, however, Djokovic looks lost in reputation.

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