Renata Voracova, the Czech tennis player who was deported from Australia after her visa was cancelled over her Covid-19 vaccination status, has spoken of her frustration after seeing Novak Djokovic win his court battle to stay in the country.
Like Djokovic, doubles specialist Voracova was granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia to compete at the Australian Open after recovering from the disease late last year. She is understood not to have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The 38 year-old had been kept in the same deportation centre as Djokovic before flying out of Melbourne last Saturday after enduring six hours of questioning by border force officials.
Voracova said she had “10 minutes to defend myself” during a “really tough” ordeal with limited legal counsel.
“I feel good for him, that he won [in] the court,” Verocova said of Djokovic on BBC Radio 5 Live. “[But] I feel a little bit frustrated for me, that the lawyers and my advisors who were there with me didn’t apply for court too, but I also understand because Novak hired his lawyers so he had to also pay for this.
“I think this was the main issue why I couldn’t go [to] court and apply for the same.”
Veracova had already played in a warm-up tournament at a Melbourne WTA event in the run-up to next week’s Australian Open and had spent several days in the country before being quizzed for “six hours” by Australian Border Force officials.
“I was there almost for a week in Melbourne and on Friday I was actually planning to go to another tournament, so I board[ed] my flight, because everything was ready, and they just came to my hotel,” said Voracova.
“First they told me when they came to my room that they want[ed] just some explanation about my exemption, that it would take around an hour.”
But she was interrogated by officials for “six hours” and was later told her exemption was not a valid reason to enter Australia. An ABF spokesperson later confirmed that she “voluntarily departed Australia following ABF inquiries”.
Voracova said: “I had to defend myself in 10 minutes after questioning why I should stay in the country.”
On the amount of legal advice she received during questioning, she added: “I had someone there, but they couldn’t really go to the process, they just sat next to me and they were not allowed to give me any advice during the questioning. It was really tough.”
The Australian Government has said recent infection is not an acceptable reason for foreign nationals to gain entry without being fully vaccinated.
Former Djokovic coach Becker says Serb faces backlash from crowds
By Ben Bloom
Boris Becker has warned Novak Djokovic he faces a backlash from Australian Open crowds if he is given clearance to bid for a record 21st grand-slam title next week, and urged the Serbian to accept a vaccine to avoid similar issues in the future.
Djokovic’s participation in Melbourne is still in limbo as he awaits a verdict from Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke, who is considering whether to cancel his visa despite the Serbian’s court victory on Monday.
While Serbian fans celebrated outside the court-house on Monday, many Australians, who have endured months of hard lockdowns, remain angry at the current decision to allow the unvaccinated Djokovic to enter the country.
Becker, who coached Djokovic for three seasons from 2014 to 2016, told the BBC: “I’m sure there will be a couple of boos and whistles, but he’s used to that.
“He was always a street fighter who had to fight the odds and win over the crowd, and it was fascinating in last year’s US Open final when they finally embraced him.
“The crowd will be difficult with him but with each match he starts, he will win the crowd and they will embrace him again. But he is going to have a difficult first week.”
‘I’d advise him to take the vaccine… life will be easier for him’
Becker said the world No 1, who has twice caught Covid, would have an easier life if he accepted a vaccine.
“I’m sure the French Open and Wimbledon will be watching the Melbourne saga, and I’m sure they will have strict rules on who can play and who cannot play,” said Becker.
“It’s everybody’s choice, but life is more difficult if you don’t want to be vaccinated. Personally I’d advise him to be vaccinated eventually because life would be easier for him, but ultimately it’s his choice and we have to respect that.”
A number of players have expressed concerns over Djokovic’s potential exemption to compete in Australia, with Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marton Fucsovics the latest to speak out against his involvement.
“People’s health is paramount, and there are rules that were outlined months ago, namely that everyone should vaccinate themselves – and Djokovic didn’t,” Fucsovics told Hungarian outlet M4 Sport. “From this point of view, I don’t think he would have the right to be here.”
The Hungarian world No 38, who lost to Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals and in the Paris Masters in November, also said he was not alone in thinking it unfair that Djokovic could play in Melbourne despite not being vaccinated.
Kyrgios ’embarrassed’ by treatment of Djokovic
However, Australian Nick Kyrgios said he was “embarrassed” by the way Australia had treated Djokovic.
“I feel quite embarrassed as an Australian athlete that’s seen what this guy has done for us and the sport,” said Kyrgios, who pulled out of this week’s Sydney Tennis Classic after testing positive for Covid. “I just don’t think it’s right how we’re handling it.”
Former Australia cricketer Shane Warne also branded his country’s handling of the affair as a “shambles” but insisted it was their right to refuse entry.
Warne told the BBC: “It just seems an absolute, embarrassing mess. Novak is well entitled not to be jabbed or to be jabbed, but it is also Australia’s choice to not let him in or to let him in.
“I don’t know what’s actually going on here. It’s a shambles and a bit embarrassing.”