Tennis player Novak Djokovic on Sunday won his tenth Australian Open men’s singles tennis title, marking his 22nd Grand Slam win and tying him with Rafael Nadal atop the all-time list.
Djokovic was detained, deported, kicked out of Australia, and prevented from participating in the 2022 Australian and U.S. Opens because he refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Djokovic didn’t cave to pressure or compromise his health for a title as many professional athletes did.
Djokovic has been scrutinized by many in the tennis community and sports world for standing by his convictions and asserting his right to remain unvaccinated, even if taking a stand cost him his career.
This Sunday, Djokovic returned to Australia and took the victory at the same event he was prohibited from playing in a year prior — and he took the title as Bill Gates looked on.
Although the Babylon Bee published an article stating the tennis icon won by default, this isn’t exactly how it happened.
In a post-match interview, an emotional Djokovic explained his latest accomplishment signified his “biggest victory.” More impressive than Djokovic’s play was his perseverance in overcoming obstacles to the Australian Open final.
“I have to say that this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I have played in my life, considering the circumstances,” Djokovic said in an interview. “Not playing last year, coming back this year. I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome and comfortable to be in Melbourne, Australia.”
Last year, Djokovic was deported from Australia and prohibited from competing in the event and U.S. Open. At the heart of the dispute was Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated against COVID. Australian authorities promptly assessed Djokovic upon arrival and rejected his entry. His visa was canceled on the spot, and he was taken into temporary immigration detention because he failed to provide evidence he was double-vaccinated or had a legitimate exemption to the policy.
Under Australian law, all international arrivals were required to be vaccinated against COVID unless they had a medical exemption.
Two independent panels associated with Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government had granted Djokovic a medical exemption on the grounds he was infected with COVID that previous December. The federal government argued that prior infection with COVID was not a valid reason for an exemption under its rules.
According to The Washington Post, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old player’s visa citing “health and good order” grounds — just three days before the 2022 Australian Open was set to begin.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” the statement said.
Although Australia loosened its restrictions and allowed Djokovic to compete, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced earlier this month it was extending the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for non-U.S. citizens to enter the country through April 10. It is unknown whether Djokovic will be allowed to play in the U.S. Open.