Game-Set-Match: Djokovic vs the Australian Government | Ilija Dokmanovic
The Australian Open is one of the biggest sporting events in international tennis every year. For many, it is the hallmark start of the year in sports – being the most watched and one of the most highly attended sporting events in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, the attendance was well over 800,000 people during the tournament; it draws enthusiasts, celebrities, casual watchers of the game and everyone else in between to the various sporting arenas in Melbourne to watch the world’s best tennis players go head to head in one of the oldest and most elegant sports on Earth.
Whether one is sitting in Rod Laver Arena for Championship Singles, watching the matches from the pubs, or streaming it online, this tennis tournament starts the Grand Slam tour bigger and better every single year, growing in size and spectacle annually.
Personally, I enjoy the idea of tennis more than playing it. I can serve a ball and rally decently for a casual player, but it’s an endurance sport and I much prefer to watch the professionals go at it while I sit in the shade with a Long Island Iced Tea. From the crisp white clothes, competitive attitudes and clashing personalities, millions of dollars on the line and gorgeous women in tennis skirts that are far too short for one’s imagination, it’s just a gorgeous sport all around – and there really is no wonder as to why this sport has quite deservedly earned the nickname “The Game of Kings”.
While the players of the modern incarnation of the sport are no longer European nobility and monarchs, they are certainly deemed royalty in their own respective world. Every year, whether it is a rising star smashing their way to the top of the ranks on the court, or it’s the staple champions of the game that millions watch and grip the edge of their seat with white knuckles as they face each other, these players are treated like kings and queens in their own countries – they are, of course, an extension of the country itself in both a physical and spiritual sense, and they are performing on a global court.
It’s like war, but sexier.
Regardless, there is no other athlete who embodies this attitude more so than any other in the game than the current World No. 1, Novak Djokovic.
The Serbian superstar has rocked the tennis scene ever since the late-2000’s, with a meteoric rise to the top with his first Grand Slam win at the 2008 Australian Open, and remaining a part of the “Big Three” of Male’s Singles tennis with tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Djokovic appeared on the scene almost out of nowhere – with his charismatic attitude, his humorous personality on and off the court, and retaining a level of humility throughout it all, he has gone on to become a household name for many, and truly the best in the game for the last two decades.
He has won 86 career titles, including 20 Grand Slams, and over 60 ATP singles tournaments. He is also the most successful tennis player in regards to his prize earning, with a world record of over $150,000,000. After an incredible 2021 season, winning three out of the four international Grand Slams, he is still hungry, energetic, and ready to defend his title against his old rivals, and new threats like the 2021 US Open winner, Daniil Medvedev of Russia.
He has loved playing in Melbourne for the Australian Open year after year, and has always had a soft spot for the nation and the sporting community that is very much a part of Aussie culture – that much is clear given his donations to Australia’s bushfire recovery.
So, as the year has started, and with coronavirus being the word on everyone’s lips in Melbourne, the most locked-down city in the world to date, the question of whether the unvaccinated Novak Djokovic would attend to win yet another Grand Slam has been circulating for many months in the news cycle. In particular due to the fact that Australia has some of the strictest vaccination mandates of any country, especially for foreign nationals.
As Djokovic made his way Down Under with a cheerful Instagram post, his entry into the country was held up by the Australian Border Force cancelling his visa at 4 o’clock in the morning on the 6th of January. Media figures and politicians alike were quick to jump on the news to flaunt Australia’s strict border policies as being “the best in the world” even in the face of massive celebrities and sports stars.
On the same day Djokovic was detained, Prime Minister Scott Morrison jumped on the opportunity to tweet, “Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant”. Of course, none of this was reasonable, nor was it even due to a mistake in the visa forms or lack of medical exemption as the news circulated for days during the legal back-and-forth between Djokovic’s lawyers and the courts. Subsequently, days after Novak was detained, the courts ruled in his favour, with Judge Anthony Kelly citing the ridiculousness and the reality of the situation; “What more could he have done?”
After being freed and allowed to train in Rod Laver Arena the week after this ruling, the pressure was still not off Djokovic, and the Federal Government still held one ace up their sleeve – that being the powers held by the Minister of Immigration to revoke a visa, and deport Novak.
After embarrassing the Federal Government and Scott Morrison’s administration by following all the correct channels and doing nothing at all outrageous except playing tennis, the ball was back in the government’s court as to find a legitimate reason to deport Novak.
Citing him as an exposure risk wasn’t good enough, as Victoria has already been in the midst of a massive coronavirus surge even before he landed. Djokovic also had recently had the virus about a month prior – meaning he had immunity from the disease.
So, when Alex Hawke, the Minister of Immigration, had to find a justified reason to deport the World No. 1, it came down to no other reason than Novak’s public views of being against mandatory vaccination – as it might inspire Australian people to go against mandates or the idea that they must be vaccinated to participate in normal society.
A jumped-up, completely anti-democratic and authoritarian view, and all decided by the supposedly “liberal” Australian government. Nonetheless, the courts unfortunately upheld the final visa cancellation, and Djokovic was deported from Australia on the 17th of January.
So ends an embarrassing, and absolutely unnecessary episode. How revealing it was, showing the truly gargantuan lengths that the Australian Government will go to in order to save its reputation of being the most functional anarcho-tyranny on the planet. I wonder how this same government would react if the Chinese authorities were to deport Australian athletes in response to the “diplomatic” boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics?
So how is it, and more so why has it been the case that a tennis star has caused this much upset and outrage across the media and political scape?
Much like in the United States with the former New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton or with Brooklyn Nets star player Kyrie Irving, being outspoken about not being vaccinated, keeping the issue private, or even simply not falling for the fear-politics of the last two years surrounding the pandemic has set these athletes aside from the mob.
Daring to question the circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic or even going against the proposed solutions to it – vaccination, continuous “booster” shots, and locking society and individuals down in order to protect vulnerable populations – has become an unpopular position, and far outside the realm of acceptability according to the elites in government, business, and of course the media.
The issue has been framed so that anyone outside of the group opinion is not only seen as being a voice of dissent, they are viewed by wider society as being completely unethical, or even morally bankrupt and intentionally malicious. This has been the reality of the fear-politicking since the beginning of the outbreak in March 2020 – despite the fact that the goalposts in regards to the pandemic have moved consistently since then. People who have remained consistent in their scepticism throughout the years are attacked, because they refuse to shift as the mob has done.
Defaming these individuals, role-models and voices of reservation or even scepticism, especially those who are themselves among the “elite” is seen as a necessity by the status quo in order to keep the rest of the herd in-line. Continuing to shuffle populations along the desired path of self-insulation and exile from wider society, straight to the slaughterhouse of the Kafkaesque security-driven bureaucratic state and the Government Approved™ Safety Pod™.
Would it matter if Djokovic was double vaccinated? Judging by the push for booster shots, apparently not. Even if he had a booster, the likelihood that he could still catch coronavirus is likely. Whatever governments and medical experts say, there is no full-proof way to protect oneself from the virus – hence why the goalposts have always moved since March 2020, and will continue to move until governments find the next issue to latch on to and profit from.
There hasn’t been this much vitriolic coverage of a singular issue, nor massive changes to the way we view our own collective and personal security since the War on Terror – and there’s a reason for that; functionally they are the exact same. We were wrong to be afraid and as knee-jerked into compromising our freedoms then, and we are wrong doing it now. And just like those years during the War on Terror, anyone who dared question the motivations or narrative laid out by governments and media mega-giants was looney, or a conspiracy theorist, or a “terrorist sympathizer”. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Uniquely, in Novak Djokovic’s situation, he is not outspoken about this issue other than a few remarks here and there when questioned. Unlike others, Djokovic is rather quiet; not lending his voice to the megaphones and parades of anti-vaccination or mandate crowds, nor jumping on government advertisement campaign bandwagon to “get the jab”. He quietly goes about his own business, doing what he does best: playing tennis. The fact that he has not joined any particular mob or crowd on the issue is what makes him such a substantial threat to the establishment – by showing that it is not an issue that needs polarisation or division.
Djokovic is well-known enough and respected enough in his own career that if he draws attention to this horrifying reality in any way shape or form, even indirectly, his reputation and career must be destroyed.
Djokovic’s crime wasn’t being unvaccinated. Nor was it even breaching quarantine rules during his time before the Australian Open by travelling to Spain.
His crime was the mere act of saying “No”.
Saying “no” when the entire established and elite world has coerced huge chunks of the population into isolation, out of work, and away from their friends and family over something that is invisible to the naked eye.
Saying “no” and relying on his own gut instinct and health, rather than the messaging of major drug companies and the governments that they have been paying or donating to.
Saying “no” and living life as a normal person, before all this madness started.
Djokovic will move on. Unlike most players in the game, he’s used to falling under bombardment; quite literally. There’s other Grand Slams, and other chances for him to defend his title and compete to beat his records. He’s still the greatest tennis player of all time – and no government bureaucrats can take that away from him.
But along with being the World No. 1, he’s also proven himself to be a man of far greater dignity, honour, and conviction than the entire pack of politicians and media grifters that have been foaming at the mouth to attack his persona and lifestyle.
The Australian Government, the Morrison Administration and the rest of the regime may have had a victory in the courts at the end of the day. But it is a Pyrrhic victory at best – they have tarnished their reputation on the global stage once again, embarrassed themselves at home for making this a bigger issue than it needed to be, and have proven what petty lengths they’ll go to to keep up appearances and quash and form of dissent against the system.
In its exercise of strength, the establishment has shown just how fragile it is. As the popular adage goes; “If the situation was hopeless, their propaganda would be unnecessary.”
Djokovic has shown the world this actuality.