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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

sordid - Djoko sent out of Australian Open by Court

In mid 1980s, it was Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl !! – what ?? – one need not be a Rules Ramanujam but when every rule is broken by people and they go scot-free, one would feel hapless and frustrated, while abiding the rules, which are after-all made for the good of humanity ! 

A trio of women's singles stars ensured they remain in Australian Open 2022 contention after navigating through career-first encounters in early Day 3 action.  Eighth seed Paula Badosa secured a maiden third round Australian Open berth by ousting qualifier Martina Trevisan with a 6-0 6-3 victory. The powerful Spaniard, now on a seven-match winning streak, needed just one hour and 11 minutes to defeat the talented Italian left-hander. Elina Svitolina lived up to her 15th seeding, maneuvering past Frenchwoman Harmony Tan who saved a match point before she was felled by a left calf injury and required a wheelchair to leave Margaret Court Arena.  Awaiting Svitolina in the third round is two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who maintained her unbeaten record in the round of 64 at Melbourne Park by sweeping past Switzerland's Jil Teichmann 6-1 6-2. 

Contrary to my thinking it is not Melbourne always !!  Christchurch and Hastings, New Zealand, - Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, have hosted the men's singles event. The event switched cities every year before it settled in 1972 in Melbourne. The event was held at the Kooyong Stadium before moving to Melbourne Park in 1988. The Australian Open court surface changed once, from grass courts to hardcourts in 1988.  Mats Wilander was the only player to win the event on both surfaces; twice on grass and once on hardcourt. 

Version 2022 -  Australian Open is Grand Slam tennis tournament now underway at Melbourne Park, from 17 to 30 January 2022. It is the 110th edition of the Australian Open, the 54th in the Open Era, and the first Grand Slam of the year. The tournament consists of events for professional players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Junior and wheelchair players will compete in singles and doubles tournaments.   

It was not always clear that Rafael Nadal would make it back to the Australian Open this year, but 20 seasons into his illustrious career, he has developed a knack for blowing past even the most generous expectations. Rafa  is indeed in Melbourne, he has already won five matches in the new year and for the first time in his career he is at a grand slam tournament without either of his greatest rivals, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. On Wednesday, Nadal returned to Rod Laver Arena and saw off a strong performance by Yannick Hanfmann to win 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the third round of the Australian Open. 

My favourite Novak Djokovic is the defending champion  and Naomi Osaka in Women's Singles- Djoko is not here or rather, came here and was not sent out.  Though I am a great fan of Djoko – I feel justice done and Australian defence has proved impregnable though there was too much of a drama.  Ultimately,  this isn’t about one man, even if he is extraordinarily good at tennis, even if he is entitled to his view, even if he has been treated miserably and this could all have been prevented with more clarity earlier.   High profile dissenters, whether a fabulous, successful, athlete, or attendees of a clandestine work event that looks suspiciously like a jolly-up, erode faith and the collective effort. Australia identified Djokovic as a standard bearer, an appealing figure to rally around. If Djokovic eschewed the vaccine as one of the greatest athletes on the planet, if he wiped the floor with all those other, vaccinated, tennis players, what message would that send?  

Tackling pandemics is not about the rights of individuals, but a shared common goal. It needs everybody – or almost all – abiding and heading in the same direction. Pro-vaccine, understanding of lockdowns, willing to make a collective sacrifice for the common good.  

One would be foolish to ask – why there was no chaos, no riot, no civil disorder, no disturbance at all – as proclaimed by the Govt in the Court that the man against whom they were advancing arguments was capable of formenting trouble among the unvaccinated masses.   Chief Justice James Allsop made the unanimous decision known. He read his deportation statement, in cold measured tones, nothing in his voice suggesting a victory for either side. It needed a legal mind to actually calculate, in real time, which side had won. So some of the silence may have been simple confusion. Later, Allsop would steer counsel from making a decision ’on the fly’, a colloquialism readily understandable to all. If only he’d given the verdict in such layman’s terms. Appeared on screen and simply shouted: ‘He’s outta here!’ and pointed in the direction of Tullamarine Airport, like a baseball umpire. At least everyone would know where they stood.  

The task for Djokovic’s legal team was always immense given the power at Hawke’s command. They had to prove the minister’s thinking was irrational, unhinged, that he was found surrounded by empty whisky bottles at the end of the decision-making process, or was motivated by an irrational grudge against Slavs.  Djokovic’s counsel, Nicholas Wood, spoke at length about the flaws in the minister’s rationale and, at times, made a strong case.  

Finally, Allsop and his colleagues Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan kept the parameters tight.  Given Djokovic’s opposition to what an overwhelming majority regard as scientific reason – that vaccines make hugely valuable contributions to the health of society, and have been largely successful in protecting the wider population from the worst effects of covid – it was no little irony that much of   argument centred on what counsel identified as the ‘counter-factual’.  

It is by a clear Court verdict – the champion player,  Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after his lawyers failed to convince three senior judges of his right to stay in Melbourne.  The Serb, who arrived at the airport less than three hours following the judges' ruling, left the country on an Emirates flight from Melbourne to Dubai.  There was no way, he could further stay in Australia after Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O'Callaghan unanimously decided Djokovic did not have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's deportation order. Mr Hawke wielded his discretionary power on Friday afternoon to cancel the world number one's visa and deport him, despite a court ruling  in his favour, after the government's lawyers argued he'd become an 'icon' for anti-vaxxers.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion said he was 'extremely disappointed' in the outcome of the case, but that he 'respected' the court's decision and would co-operate with authorities. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke meanwhile said he 'welcomed' the court's decision to 'exercise my power to cancel Mr Djokovic's visa in the public interest'.  Chief Justice James Allsop made clear Djokovic could not launch an official appeal against Mr Hawke's decision. Djokovic as a result will have to cover the costs of all legal fees in the case.  

Deportation orders typically come with a three-year ban on returning to Australia, though it has not yet been decided whether this will be applied in Djokovic's case. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the cancellation of Djokovic's visa was made 'on health, safety and good order grounds. Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.'  

Away, Serbia president Aleksandar Vucic,  accused  Aussie PM Morrison of playing politics ahead of an upcoming election. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), organisers of the men's tennis tour, said in a statement: 'Today's decision to uphold Djokovic's visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events.' It added: 'Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport's greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game.'

The top player may not be playing but allowing him to play would have been ethically and legally against those who underwent curfews, lockdowns and are fully convinced that vaccines have now saved them from many  ordeals !  Some social media users took aim at the tennis star himself, declaring that the world-class athlete should not be exempt from the brutal coronavirus restrictions to which Australian citizens have been subjected. The Serb was branded a cheat, a liar and an anti-vaxxer by some who are glad to see him go.  

Lucky Loser Salvatore Caruso from Italy - who  was beaten in the semifinals of a tournament in Bendigo – took  Djokovic's spot in the draw.  

Confusion surrounded the vaccination status of the world's No1, but only because Djokovic, whose anti-vax sentiments are no secret — has always refused to clarify it.  It is also unclear as to  why Australian authorities initially granted him a medical exemption from their Covid vaccination rules, only for it to be withdrawn rather dramatically.  As a hero to millions, he should be setting an example, not behaving like a spoilt baby wrapped up in the kryptonite of sporting privilege. He obviously benefits from, and has come to expect, the generous dispensations afforded to top players. But even for him there is a limit.  Earlier this month, he swaggered into town, boasting on Twitter how he had bested the Covid rules and the system. How damaging that must have been for Australian morale, in a country where a great many families have had to sacrifice Christmases and birthdays usually spent with relatives elsewhere in the country or overseas.   

We meet people like Novak all the time; the no-maskers, the anti-lockdown loons, the mad protesters who believe vaccines are a global Smersh plot to inject them with mind control nanobots.  Fair enough (not really) if he does not want to be vaccinated, that is his choice. But he cannot continue to stake his place in the international world of tennis. He cannot carry on travelling from country to country with impunity, like some untouchable emperor of sport. You cannot be anti-vax and pro pro-tennis, It is either or, but not both. 

Now that controversies are over, we can watch the game to see who is freshly crowned champion at Melbourne 2022.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th Jan 2022.

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