Allison Langdon has taken aim at the Novak Djokovic visa debacle.
The Today co-anchor described the series of events that saw the World No.1 in court twice before eventually being deported on Sunday as ‘messy’ and ’embarrassing’.
Writing in the Today Show newsletter, the 42-year-old called the calamity ‘a little distraction in the lead up [to the Australian Open] which we don’t need to dwell on.’
Not impressed: Allison Langdon (pictured) has taken aim at the Novak Djokovic visa debacle
‘It was messy, embarrassing, but now we are focused on the court,’ Langdon continued, before turning to more positive matters.
‘It was nice to kick off day one of our show and the Australian Open with an Ash Barty win. Gee she looked good.’
Her comments come after Tennis Australia finally broke its silence over the debacle.
The board apologised for the ‘distraction’ it has caused ahead of the Grand Slam.
Debacle: The Today co-anchor described the series of events that saw the world No.1 in court twice before eventually being deported on Sunday as ‘messy’ and ’embarrassing’
Without once mentioning Djokovic by name, TA on Tuesday night issued a statement offering ‘deep regret’ for how the sorry affair had affected all of the other players at Melbourne Park.
The governing body has also pledged to review its handling of the saga – but not until after the Australian Open is won and done.
Djokovic’s desperate attempt to have his visa reinstated in two Federal Court cases led to the Open draw being delayed by more than an hour last Thursday, the day-one schedule being held up by almost 24 hours and left many of the world No.1’s peers fed up.
The blame game is now on in earnest, with Open tournament director and Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley, the TA board, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the federal government and Djokovic himself all copping heat.
Tennis Australia has broken its silence over the Novak Djokovic saga by apologising for the ‘distraction’ caused to the Australian Open. Pictured: Djokovic and TA CEO Craig Tiley
‘As the Australian tennis family, we recognise that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone, and we deeply regret the impact this had on all players,’ a statement from the board said.
‘There are always lessons to learn, and we will review all aspects of our preparation and implementation to inform our planning – as we do every year.
‘That process always starts once the Australian Open champions have lifted their trophies.’
A normally omnipresent figure at the Open, Tiley has been mostly conspicuous by his public absence throughout the opening two days.
The long-time tournament director has also yet to publicly address his involvement in one of the biggest scandals to hit the sport.
The fiasco began 13 days ago when Djokovic was detained at Melbourne Airport by Australian Border Force officials for failing to produce the necessary paperwork to enter the country.
The nine-times champion believed a medical exemption from TA was sufficient, before being advised he didn’t have any special allowance against being vaccinated.
Djokovic left Melbourne on Sunday after three federal court judges unanimously ruled he did not have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s visa cancellation
He spent four nights in an immigration hotel before winning his first case in the Federal Circuit court on a technicality.
But four days later, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised his discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa for a second time.
The Serbian star then failed in a last-ditch bid to have his visa restored in a Federal Court hearing on Sunday when three judges unanimously ruled against the Serb.
His name was taped over on the official draw of the Australian Open with the player flying back to Serbia just hours later.
Lawyers for Djokovic and the federal government on Sunday duelled over his potential impact on anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia as more than 85,000 people watched the case broadcast live on YouTube.
Djokovic’s lawyers argued that Mr Hawke failed to consider the way anti-vaxxers would be energised by a government decision to deport Djokovic, and had been too fixated on the risks posed by his ongoing presence.
Mr Hawke said he assumed Djokovic had recently been infected with Covid and was a ‘negligible’ risk of transmitting the disease to anybody else.
Novak Djokovic (pictured with Craig Tiley in 2019) could be banned from entering Australia for three years after his visa was cancelled
Instead, the immigration minister cited Djokovic’s high profile and previous statements against vaccination that meant others might refuse to be vaccinated and could even lead to civil unrest.
Legal experts had considered that Djokovic faced an uphill battle given the broad power Mr Hawke has under the Migration Act to cancel the visa.
Fellow 20-times grand slam champion Rafael Nadal has been among his professional peers saying Djokovic wouldn’t be in this mess had he been vaccinated like the other estimated 97 per cent of players.
He now faces being ousted from the French Open after politicians voted in a law banning all unvaccinated people from entering sports areas.
France’s lower house voted by 215 to 58 to give final approval to a vaccine pass that will exclude the unvaccinated from restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.
It will apply to everybody over the age of 16 and the law is expected to take effect by the end of the week, throwing Djokovic’s appearance at Roland Garros into doubt.
His name was taped over on the official draw of the Australian Open with the player (pictured on his flight to Belgrade) flying back to Serbia just hours later
Unvaccinated Novak Djokovic landed in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, on Monday to a hero’s welcome after being deported from Australia amid a visa debacle
The Melbourne visa debacle has captured global attention and drawn condemnation from the Serbian government.
IS NOVAK BANNED FROM AUSTRALIA?
Given the approval of Mr Hawke’s order, Djokovic is barred from travelling Down Under until 2025 as those subjected to rulings under that part of the Migration Act are unable to be granted visas while offshore for a duration of three years.
But the sanction can be waived in certain situations.
These include compassionate or compelling circumstances that affect the interests of Australia, which, in Djokovic’s case, could be argued includes his presence at the Australian Open tournaments in 2023 and 2024
Djokovic’s outraged father labelled it an ‘assassination attempt’ against his son and President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australian officials of ‘lying’.
Serbian Sports Minister Vanja Udovicic denounced the move as ‘hypocrisy’, offering his support to the ‘best player’ in the world.
Fans gathered outside Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport on Monday morning chanting ‘You are our champion, Novak!’ as the tennis star touched down.
Supporters held a banner reading ‘Novak, God bless you’, and waved Serbian flags as the tennis star received a hero’s welcome in his home city.
Having his visa cancelled also carries a three-year ban from entering Australia, while Djokovic’s future participation at the other three grand slams is under a cloud unless he gets vaccinated.
In an interview with the Today Show on Monday, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews confirmed the three year ban was the outcome of the court decision.
‘The visa was cancelled by [Immigration] Minister Hawke,’ Ms Andrews said.
‘That cancellation was upheld by the Federal Court, so as a result of that, he will be banned from entry for three years into the country.’
Ms Andrews acknowledged there were some ‘issues’ around the interview process after the world No.1 was stopped at Melbourne Airport but Djokovic was not entitled to enter the country – despite being granted a visa before arriving.
Djokovic’s future participation at the other three grand slams is under a cloud unless he gets vaccinated (pictured, the Serbian tennis star stands with Craig Tiley in 2021)
The Melbourne visa debacle has captured global attention and drawn condemnation from the Serbian government (pictured, Djokovic takes photos with fans at Nikola Tesla Airport)
The 34-year-old superstar (pictured back in Serbia) said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the court’s decision not to overturn his cancelled visa
‘Anyone coming into Australia it is their responsibility that they are meeting the entry requirements… just because you have a valid visa does not guarantee you will be able to enter Australia,’ she said.
‘What was given to Mr Djokovic on arrival in Australia – before he cleared our immigration processes – was the opportunity to be able to produce the documentation that was needed, which he could not.’
Ms Andrews said should Djokovic return to Australia with compelling reasons in the future ‘that may be looked at but that’s all hypothetical at this point.’
PM Scott Morrison, and millions of Australians, also supported the move, with the prime minister saying he ‘welcomed the decision to keep our borders strong’.
He did add that despite the three-year ban there could be room for the tennis ace to travel back to Australia.
‘It does go over a three-year period but there is the opportunity for them to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time’.
Mr Morrison was also forced to dismiss bizarre claims by the Serbian president that the tennis superstar’s prolonged stints in immigration detention amounted to ‘physical torture’.
‘Well, it’s very clear that Australia has not tortured Mr Djokovic.’ Mr Morrison told 2GB on Monday.
‘I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,’ Djokovic (pictured) said in a statement as he left the country
REACTION FROM DJOKOVIC’S SUPPORTERS
His father, Srdjan Djokovic: ‘The assassination attempt on the best sportsman in the world is over, 50 bullets to Novak’s chest – after all, he gives support to a young 17-year-old player, so that’s Nole, a man, a brother, see you in Paris.’
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic: ‘You saw in the pointless court proceeding how much the prosecution lied.
‘They are simply lying. They say there are fewer than 50 per cent vaccinated people in Serbia and officially the number is 58 per cent.
‘Don’t forget that’s higher than in many European Union countries. That was a pointless argument, but that’s possible in Orwellian performances.’
French tennis star Alize Cornet: ‘What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players. No none of us stood for him. Be strong.’
Nick Kyrgios: Posted a ‘facepalm’ emoji after the ruling, and has been vocal about how badly he thinks Djokovic has been treated
Djokovic’s visa was first cancelled by Australian Border Force officials when he touched down in Melbourne on January 5 on the basis that he didn’t have an exemption from the requirement to be vaccinated.
That decision was revoked through a federal court appeal and the visa reinstated on Monday, allowing the elite athlete to be temporarily freed from a notorious immigration detention facility.
Days later, he was carted back to the hotel after Mr Hawke overruled the decision, citing ‘public risk’ concerns after reports emerged the high-profile athlete was being investigated in Serbia and Spain over potential Covid breaches.
Djokovic, who has been ordered to pay the federal government’s legal costs, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the court’s decision to dismiss his application but that he respected its ruling.
‘I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,’ he said.
‘I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.
‘I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.’
NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN EPIC VISA SAGA
Novak Djokovic’s defence of his Australian Open title remains in doubt after Australian immigration officials cancelled his visa for the second time.
Here’s how the saga has unfolded:
Jan 4: Djokovic tweets that he is on his way to the Australian Open under a medical exemption. He writes on Instagram: ‘I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!!’
Jan 5: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Djokovic he will be on the ‘next plane home’ if his medical exemption is deemed insufficient, and is adamant Djokovic will not receive preferential treatment.
Jan 5: Djokovic’s visa is cancelled upon his arrival in Melbourne. The Australian Border Force announces that the player ‘failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia’.
Jan 6: Djokovic is sent to the Park Hotel in Melbourne after being refused a visa. He launches an appeal, which is adjourned until 10am on January 10. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic says Djokovic is the victim of ‘persecution’.
Jan 9: Djokovic’s lawyers claim he was granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he recorded a positive Covid-19 test in Serbia on December 16. However, social media posts suggest he attended a number of social events in the days following his apparent diagnosis.
Jan 10: Djokovic’s visa cancellation is quashed by Judge Anthony Kelly, who orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half-an-hour. Djokovic says he is ‘pleased and grateful’ and wishes to ‘stay and try to compete’.
Jan 11: Djokovic’s title defence remains in doubt as the Australian Immigration Minister ponders whether to over-ride the court’s ruling, reportedly due to an alleged misleading claim made by Djokovic on his entry form relating to his movements in the 14 days prior to arrival in Australia.
Jan 12: Djokovic admits making an ‘error of judgement’ by attending an interview with a French journalist while Covid positive. He adds that, although he attended a children’s tennis event the day after being tested, he did not receive notification of the positive test until after the event.
Jan 13: Djokovic is drawn to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
Jan 14: Immigration minister Minister Alex Hawke cancels Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying in a statement it was ‘on health and good order grounds’.
Jan 15: Djokovic’s lawyers have a minor win in court, with the judge agreeing to have the matter heard by a panel of three judges on Sunday – a decision fiercely opposed by the government
Jan 16: Djokovic LOSES his appeal and is told he will be deported. He is later seen at Melbourne Airport as he and his team leave Australia.
Reporting by PA 0