Czech Tennis Player to Voluntarily Leave Australia Before Tournament Over Issues With Visa

Czech doubles tennis player Renata Voráčová is in the same immigration confinement hotel as Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open due to COVID-19 issues.

Although Djokovic plans to fight his deportation at a Monday court hearing, Voráčová will leave the country, the Czech Foreign Ministry said.

Australia's COVID-19 immigration rules state travelers can enter the country if they have had two approved vaccine doses or have a medical exemption.

The Guardian reported Voráčová and Djokovic both entered Melbourne with the same medical exemption—having COVID-19 previously and recovering from it. She entered the country successfully and even played in the Melbourne Summer Set before her visa was canceled and she was confined to the city's Park Hotel, an immigration detention hotel.

Djokovic, who was aiming to win a 21st Grand Slam singles title—which would break the record—has received a flood of support from his native Serbia. People took to the streets in Belgrade to protest his detainment and the Serbian president even called for his release.

"Thank you to the people around the world for your continuous support," Djokovic wrote in an Instagram post. "I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated."

Voráčová did not fight against the deportation because she does not have the same large fanbase and level of resources as Djokovic, having earned about $1.8 million in her 22-year career, The Guardian reported. Marca, a Spanish sports newspaper, reported Djokovic's net worth was estimated at about $220 million.

Renata Voracova, tennis
Renata Voráčová of the Czech Republic will leave Australia after her visa was canceled and she was confined to an immigration hotel due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19. Above, Voráčová in action against Johanna Larsson of Sweden in their Round One match during Day One of the Fuzion 100 Southsea Trophy at Canoe Lake Leisure on June 26, 2018, in Portsmouth, United Kingdom. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for LTA

During Orthodox Christmas, Djokovic's supporters, waving banners, gathered outside the Park Hotel, used to house refugees and asylum-seekers.

A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne asked to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate Orthodox Christmas but was turned down by immigration officials because the hotel is under lockdown.

"Our Christmas is rich in many customs, and it is so important that a priest visits him," the church's dean, Milorad Locard, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "The whole thing around this event is appalling. That he has to spend Christmas in detention ... it is unthinkable."

The Australian Border Force said Friday that after further investigations into two other people connected to the Australian Open, one voluntarily left the country and another was taken into detention pending deportation.

Australia's COVID-19 rules say incoming travelers must have had two shots of an approved vaccine, or must have an exemption with a genuine medical reason, such as an acute condition, to avoid quarantine. All players, staff, officials and fans need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the tournament venue.

Djokovic flew to Australia after obtaining a medical exemption backed by the country's tennis federation and approved by the Victoria state government. The grounds for the exemption have not been disclosed. But the Australian government pronounced it invalid when he arrived.

The dispute has become a touchy topic in a city where residents spent 256 days in 2020-21 under severe restrictions on their movement. Djokovic's exemption stirred allegations the star athlete got special treatment.

While some players have sympathized with his situation, others have said getting vaccinated would have prevented any drama.

But amid the latest turn in the dispute, even some who have been critical of Djokovic in the past are now seemingly in his corner.

"Look, I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum's health, but how we are handling Novak's situation is bad, really bad," Nick Kyrgios, an Australian player and outspoken critic of some of Djokovic's opinions on vaccinations, posted on Twitter. "This is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better."

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said earlier this week that 26 people connected with the tournament applied for medical exemptions and only a "handful" were granted. Three of those have since been challenged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Australia, Novak Djokovic, protest
Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination status, Novak Djokovic was confined to the immigration detention hotel in Australia on Thursday as the No. 1 men's tennis player in the world awaited a court ruling on whether he can compete in the Australian Open later this month. Above, protesters gather outside an immigration detention hotel where Djokovic is believed to be staying, in Melbourne, Australia, January 7, 2022. Hamish Blair/AP Photo

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