Amid controversy over detention of world no. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic in Australia over his vaccination status, France sports minister said on Friday (January 7) that the Serb can play the French Open even if he was unvaccinated against COVID-19.
French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said that Djokovic would benefit from a special case scenario in France. “In France today we do not have the same regulations as Australia for entry to the country, either for athletes or any citizens from other countries. An athlete who is unvaccinated can compete in an event because the protocol, the health bubble for these major events, permits that,” the minister said speaking to news agency AFP.
“The French Open will happen in May and there is still enough time…let’s hope the situation would be clearer by then and there will be no need for such measures by then,” she said.
The Serbian tennis star was detained at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Wednesday (January 5) and taken to a quarantine hotel after being denied entry into the country for not disclosing his COVID vaccination status. His visa was revoked for failing to meet the country’s tough pandemic entry norms.
Australia does not allow other nationals to enter the country unless they prove they are fully vaccinated or have a doctor’s medical exemption, with authorities saying Djokovic provided evidence of neither.
Djokovic’s troubles started when he announced on January 4 that the Australian Open organizers had given him a medical exemption to play at the tournament. The announcement did not go well with a section of the Australian population which have been under stringent COVID regulations since the start of the pandemic. As a result, when Djokovic landed in Melbourne on January 5, he was stopped by the Australian border control, which claimed there was an error in his medical exemption.
Djokovic is a known critic of COVID vaccination and has been vocal in airing his views. There is still hope that the tennis star will play in the Australian Open, starting January 17, because his deportation has been extended until at least January 10, when his case will be heard in court.