Seeing Novak Djokovic’s father doing well on Serbian TV, you’d think Australia’s turn had begun.
Few days back they were the aggrieved party. According to popular legend, Djokovic was sneaking into his country with a dodgy vaccine discount he cooked up with his wealthy friends running the Australian Open. He was also not able to fill his paperwork properly.
But then Australia made a lazy error – they got Djokovic out of the system. Four days at the Fleabag Motel made him the world’s most famous refugee. Being dragged into court he became the most famous victim of overzealous prosecution.
Testimony in court, including transcripts of his conversations with border guards, made the Australian bureaucracy Orwellian. Held incommunicado in a room at midnight, Djokovic sought an opportunity to call someone in the morning. At first it was agreed upon. Then it was not sudden.
You don’t have to be a supporter or an opponent to be sympathetic to Djokovic’s position. Anyone who’s even caught a glimpse with arbitrary authority—and that’s all—knows what it feels like. And none of them like it.
For future reference to Australia – if you want to bully someone and avoid it, avoid the person whose account balance is eight zeros after the number.
On Monday, Australian Judge Anthony Kelly agreed that border agents “negotiated” their agreements, and reinstated Djokovic’s visa.
“What else could this man do?” Kelly thought aloud. Reasonable question. Whatever you feel about Djokovic’s vaccine politics, you can’t deny that he went to Australia in good faith. He didn’t come up with the idea of relaxation. Someone offered him this because they wanted the power to attract him to their big event. He followed the rules because he understood them. And once he reached Australia, a competing layer of government pulled the rug from under him.
It is hardly recorded on the scale of injustice ranging from small to great. But it is still an injustice.
Although the judge has sided with Djokovic, Australia’s immigration minister can still overrule it at his discretion. That decision can be taken in hours or days.
Djokovic got a PR advantage from the victory on the court. As his car left his lawyers’ office, the police fired tear gas to disperse the rowdy crowd in front.
Has the iPhone just got to Australia or what? Aren’t the officials out there aware that when you do things in public these days, someone is going to film them and put it on the internet where the rest of the world can see it? And maybe watching your own citizens fire tear gas shells isn’t the best way to reinforce your commitment to order and good governance? It’s starting to sound like that iconic “Bart vs Australia” episode simpson It was a documentary, not a satire.
And now, at the end of a long, wounding day for Australia’s international reputation, here was Djokovic’s father preparing salt.
He spoke at one of those impromptu press conferences that looked like it was being held at a grade-school gymnasium, putting his son in words typically reserved for dead revolutionary heroes. The use of the past tense was particularly clever.
“He won’t let anyone bring him to his knees,” said Srijan Djokovic. “But clearly the fact that he was from a small, poor country didn’t appeal to some powerful people… They didn’t like someone from a small country to be the best at their bourgeois game.”
So now we have one of the richest athletes alive in the role of class warrior. Good job, everyone. good effort.
Now Australia is left with the worst example of government crisis management in recent memory to dismantle and Djokovic out. It will complete his transformation from slippery rules-thief to immigration martyr.
The first principle here – if Djokovic wants to play a game worth millions of dollars around the world, it’s not too much to expect him to follow local health guidelines. The fact that he appears to be infected with the coronavirus on a regular basis (by his own admission, twice and counting) proves that point.
But through Australia’s multi-tiered, multi-institution status quo, Djokovic somehow comes out of this like a man of principle.
That sentiment was reinforced by Rafael Nadal, who is as close to a neutral, interested party as possible in this mess.
“Whether I agree with Djokovic on some points or not, justice has spoken,” Nadal told Spanish radio. “(h)e have the right to participate in the Australian Open.”
Nadal’s right. Djokovic won. The only sensible solution for Australia is to acknowledge this fact and move on from it as quickly as possible. If I were a member of Australia’s ruling party, I would push for a resolution in Parliament to start the Australian Open from tomorrow. Because Djokovic begins to lose his temporary aura as soon as he returns to the court. It’s hard to play the role of a victim when you’re making a few hundred grand a day.
But because of the way they’ve handled things up to this point, we should probably expect a more hilarious Aussie on how to run a government in an honest-to-god real country, even if it sounds like a bad reality TV show. Is.
Maybe they can dress up as Chris Hemsworth as Thor and fight Djokovic – the loser will have to leave Australia forever? Or maybe they get Djokovic on a boat and drop him off in New Zealand?
The real victim of all this is the Australian Open. Sure, they created a whole mess. But what happens now in their tournament can’t possibly be as entertaining as everything else that led to it.