Between Novak Djokovic and Melbourne, ” love story “, to use the expression of the Serb during the 2021 edition, had seriously turned sour in January 2022. Not vaccinated against Covid-19, the nine-time winner of the Australian Open had been deprived of his favorite tournament. The images of the world number one – then – arrested at customs, detained in a seedy hotel for several days, then finally kicked like an outcast out of the country after seeing his fate sealed by the Australian Federal Court, had fueled a soap opera planetary.
Twelve months later, the former boss of the circuit has not changed his mind on vaccination, but this time he was allowed to enter the country to play the first Grand Slam tournament of the season (from 16 to January 29). The three-year inadmissibility that accompanied the cancellation of his visa? Lifted, under “public interest”.
The organizers have made the big difference in twelve months in terms of health protocol, now relaxed as much as possible: players are allowed to play even if they were to test positive for Covid-19, said the boss of the Australian Open. “As for cricket [un international australien a pu disputer début janvier un test-match contre l’Afrique du Sud malgré un test positif]there could be players who play with the Covid”, assured Craig Tiley on the sidelines of the tournament.
A year ago, Djokovic’s attitude had divided local opinion and offended a large part of the inhabitants of Melbourne who had remained locked up in their homes for more than 260 days at the start of the pandemic, undergoing six confinements. This year, on the outskirts of the Rod Laver Arena – the center court of Melbourne Park – opinions converge almost all about the rehabilitation of the former banished.
“People will have ‘forgiven’ him”
“The health situation has changed, the policies have relaxed, so it seems like a fair decision to me. Just like last year’s was too,” summarizes Rowan Kent, 41, from Geelong, the second most populous city in the state of Victoria. “Last year, even though the tournament tried to get around them, the rules were clear to everyone: he wasn’t vaccinated, he couldn’t play, period, complements his wife, Sylvia. But I appreciated the way he handled the “after”. He assumed by acknowledging his wrongs and this year, he comes back with a smile. I’m sure the public will give it a warm welcome. Here in Melbourne, we celebrate sportsmanship above all else. »
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