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Lisa Wilkinson LOSES IT as Novak Djokovic arrives in Australia

Media identity Lisa Wilkinson has unleashed on tennis superstar Novak Djokovic, just hours before he was left stranded overnight in a police-guarded room at Melbourne airport amid a visa mix-up that could derail his hopes of defending his Australian Open title. 

‘I think everyone knows someone who’s really suffered through Covid, if not many, many, many people,’ Wilkinson said on Wednesday.

‘We know people who’ve lost loved ones, who weren’t there to say goodbye to them.

‘And in the end, people are just sick of superstars being given special treatment. And that’s the category this has fallen into.

The Project host Lisa Wilkinson (pictured) has unleashed on tennis superstar Novak Djokovic accusing him of lacking grace after he was announced he was flying to Australia to compete in the Open at Melbourne Park – despite not declaring his vaccination status

World number one Djokovic flew in late on Wednesday and was taken into a room at Melbourne Airport where he was grilled by border officials

World number one Djokovic flew in late on Wednesday and was taken into a room at Melbourne Airport where he was grilled by border officials

‘And it probably didn’t help, Novak, that you were lacking a bit of grace in your announcement of the whole thing. It was all a bit, ‘Let’s go!’

Wilkinson’s co-hosts on Channel 10’s The Project wondered whether Djokovic had a legitimate reason after he was granted an exemption to compete at Melbourne Park on medical grounds come January 17.

‘One of the reasons, as I understand it, is that you can get an exemption under ATAGI rules if you’ve had Covid within the last six months,’ co-host Hamish McDonald explained.

Peter Helliar added: ‘He did pull out of a tournament in Indianapolis not that long ago, I think.’

Djokovic previously contracted Covid in June 2020 shortly after he hosted a number of players in an exhibition tournament in south-east Europe.

The world number one endured a dramatic late night bureaucratic bungle after arriving in Melbourne to defend his Australian Open crown, leaving him trapped at the airport overnight on Wednesday in a guarded room after being grilled by border officials.

It is understood the type of visa his team applied for does not allow medical exemptions for the unvaccinated, and there are also believed to be issues with the exemption itself, leading to the star being grilled by border officials.

The world number one touched down on a Emirates flight from Dubai around 11.30pm Wednesday night AEST, just 24 hours after confirmation of his quest to become the greatest men’s player of all time.

His father Srdjan confirmed to a Serbian radio station that the star was ‘isolated in a room’ at the airport with his support staff banned from entering and without access to a mobile phone, even claiming he was under ‘police guard’.

‘Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,’ he told the B92 internet portal. ‘In front of the room are two policemen.’

Novak's father Srdjan told a Serbian radio station that the star was 'isolated in a room' at the airport and warned protesters would gather on the streets if border officials didn't make a decision in the next half hour

Novak’s father Srdjan told a Serbian radio station that the star was ‘isolated in a room’ at the airport and warned protesters would gather on the streets if border officials didn’t make a decision in the next half hour

A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room (pictured)

A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room (pictured)

Mr Djokovic warned protesters would gather on the Serbian streets if border officials didn’t make a decision in the next half hour.

‘I have no idea what’s going on, they’re holding my son captive for five hours,’ he said. ‘This is not a fight for the libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world!

‘If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street, this is a fight for everybody.’

To add to the chaos, there are now doubts whether his exemption – believed to be related to a previous Covid infection in the past six months – is even valid under federal guidelines, which dictates who is allowed across Australia’s border.

Meanwhile, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic has taken to social media to give fans an insight into the team’s predicament.

The photo features himself and physiotherapist Ulises Badio kicking back on large armchairs with the caption: ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’.

Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic (pictured with physiotherapist Ulises Badio) has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team's predicament

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic (pictured with physiotherapist Ulises Badio) has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team’s predicament

Djokovic’s declaration to the world that he was on his way to Australia sparked an outpouring of anger on a day the nation recorded a record 64,770 new Covid cases, inlcuding from tennis great Rod Laver who called on Djokovic to ‘own up’ to the reason for his exemption or face hostility from spectators.

Federal Border Force officials learnt while Djokovic was in the air that he would be trying to enter the country on a visa that doesn’t permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated, sources said.

As a result, they contacted the Victorian government late on Wednesday night to ask it to formally help facilitate his entry into the country – but this was rejected.

Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford confirmed the state government would not support the application.

‘The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,’ Ms Pulford tweeted at 11.14pm.

‘We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.

‘We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions a matter for doctors.’

Novak Djokovic (with wife Jelena) will be sent on the first plane home if he can't provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption, Scott Morrison has said

Novak Djokovic (with wife Jelena) will be sent on the first plane home if he can’t provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption, Scott Morrison has said

Djokovic will likely eventually be allowed into Melbourne as the saga continued into the early hours of Thursday morning, but his remaining in Australia or competing at the Open are unclear.

The Victorian government was asked to support his application because the state government works with Tennis Australia to run the Open, the event that his visa would allow him to work at.

The Federal Government therefore wanted Victoria to formally back his entry, something the state government quickly claimed is not in their jurisdiction.

Australian tennis great Rod Laver believes Djokovic owes everyone an explanation.

‘If he’s got a reason for (the exemption) then… we should know it,’ the 11-time grand slam winner told News Corp.

‘Yes, you’re a great player and you’ve performed and won so many tournaments, so, it can’t be physical. So what is the problem?’

If he doesn’t explain the medical exemption, Djokovic should expect hostility from fans every time he walks onto the court in a city which has spent than 260 days in lockdown since early 2020.

‘I think it might get ugly,’ Laver said.

‘I would think the Victorian people would be thinking ”yes I would love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there’s a right way and a wrong way’.’

Currently, everyone entering Australia – even its own citizens – must be fully-vaccinated against Covid or face two weeks in hotel quarantine.

‘My view is that any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our border requirements,’ PM Scott Morrison said on Wednesday afternoon.

‘Now Novak Djokovic, when he arrives in Australia, he has to if he’s not vaccinated, must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully-vaccinated travellers.

‘So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides us to support that.

‘If that evidence is insufficient, then he will be treated no different to anyone else and he’ll be on the next plane home.

‘There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.’

He added that any exemption given to Djokovic will still have to stack up upon arrival in Australia.

‘There are other cases — there are quite a number over the last couple of years — where people have had these exemptions and have the suitable proof to support their claim in those circumstances,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘So the circumstance is not unique. The issue is whether he has sufficient evidence to support that he would qualify for the exemption.’

WHY IS DJOKOVIC EXEMPT? 

Australia’s Department of Health says medical exemptions are handed out if the individual has an ‘acute major medical condition’.

Under the guidelines, these conditions could include: 

– Inflammatory cardiac illness in the last three months 

– Undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness 

– A Covid-19 diagnosis that means vaccination cannot be made for six months

– Any serious effect to a Covid-19 vaccine in the past (Note: Djokovic has not confirmed whether or not he has been jabbed)

– If the vaccine is a risk to themselves or others during the vaccination process 

– Underlying developmental or mental health disorders 

Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino said last month that medical exemptions are ‘not a loophole’. 

‘Medical exemptions are just that,’ he said. ‘It’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players. 

‘They are medical exemptions in exceptional circumstances – if you have acute medical conditions.’

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