A second tennis player’s visa has been revoked and the Australian border force told him to leave the country as Novak Djokovic issued a public statement for the first time since his arrest, thanking fans for their support.
Czech doubles specialist Renata Vorakova, who is due to play at the Australian Open this month, entered Melbourne with the same medical exemption that Djokovic was denied access to, after she indicated she had recently recovered from Covid-19. After successfully entering the Melbourne border with her medical exemption, Voracova played in the Melbourne Summer Set event, losing in the first round alongside her partner Katerizna Peter.
“We can confirm that the Czech tennis player Renata Vorakova is being held in the same detention as Djokovic with several other players,” the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement. There was no confirmation that any other player had been detained.
With supporters and detractors staying outside the Park Hotel where Voracova joined him, Djokovic issued a public statement for the first time since arriving in Melbourne on Friday night. “Thank you to people around the world for your continued support. I feel it and it is very much appreciated,” he said in a post on his Instagram Stories posted in Serbian and English.
Vorukova’s arrest comes amid fallout from Djokovic’s visa revocation and his transfer to an immigration hotel on Thursday pending an appeal hearing after the weekend. As the reason for his denial of entry became the backdrop to an opportunistic political uproar, Border Force began tracking down two other Australian Open participants who had used the same medical exemption to enter Melbourne.
The Park Hotel in downtown Melbourne is the infamous immigration detention facility where Djokovic and Vorukova are being held, along with some refugees who have been locked in their rooms for years.
While Djokovic chose to appeal his detention, Vorakova decided not to appeal the revocation of her visa and would leave Australia. Vorakova, 38, top 100 singles player and now 81st in doubles, has earned $1.8 million in her 22-year career and has far fewer resources than Djokovic.
“We have submitted through our embassy in Canberra a protest note and are asking for an explanation of the situation. The ministry statement added that Renata Vorakova decided to withdraw from the tournament due to limited training opportunities and to leave Australia.
As news of Voracova’s visa cancellation spread, Nicole Melishar Martinez, the 12th player in doubles, criticized the move on Twitter. “This is wrong on many levels,” I wrote. “I’ve really competed. She’s recovered from Covid, so he’s probably the least dangerous person out there. It’s no longer about health, it’s political.”
Meanwhile, leaked documents on Friday left Tennis Australia with further questions to answer after Djokovic’s arrest. In the email sent to tennis governing bodies, the Australian Tennis Organization told players that a recent positive Covid-19 test would be one possible reason for medical exemption.
The emails to players were sent out a week after Greg Hunt, the federal health minister, sent an email to Craig Tilley, Tennis Australia’s chief executive, on November 29 informing him that people who had not been fully vaccinated would not be approved for quarantine. entry into Australia and that people who have contracted Covid-19 in the previous six months will not be considered fully vaccinated.
The Victorian government said it had not seen the discussion between Tennis Australia and the federal government. “I have learned that members of the Victorian Government have not seen that correspondence,” said Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan.
“We won’t necessarily see that… but it reinforces the point that the Commonwealth government is responsible for issuing the visas and how they engage in this dialogue with the Australian Tennis Club is their business.”
Karen Andrews, the home affairs minister, has opposed the idea that Djokovic is being held in Australia. “He’s free to leave,” Andrews told ABC [the country] Anytime he chooses to do so, Border Forces will actually facilitate that.”
Djokovic’s visa was revoked after arriving at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Wednesday. He is expected to remain at the Park Hotel until at least Monday, the date of the hearing, as he tries to overturn the Australian government’s decision to revoke his visa.
Despite the escalation of Djokovic’s case, both Tennis Australia and Tilley have not spoken publicly since Djokovic’s arrest at the airport.
Earlier on Friday, Djokovic found support from his peers in both surprising and unsurprising places. Nick Kyrgios, who has made many critical comments about Djokovic in the past, called on people to “do a better job” when discussing Djokovic’s situation. “Look, I definitely believe in taking action, I’ve been vaccinated because of others and my mom’s health, but the way we’re handling Novak’s situation is really bad. Like these memes and headlines, this is one of our great heroes but ultimately a human being,” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
John Isner also offered to support Djokovic. Isner, a member of the players’ association he co-founded by Serbia, the ATP, bemoans the treatment Djokovic is receiving: “What Novak is going through now is not true. There is no justification for the treatment he is receiving. He followed the rules, was allowed to enter Australia, Now he is being held against his will. This is such a disgrace.”