When a star called Djokovic collided with Australia

Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Australians had endured very hard corona lockdown measures. Families had been separated, livelihoods disrupted. A general election was looming. Donald Trump was partly damned by Covid-19. Boris Johnson is tottering. Political and judicial perceptions converged. Djokovic was doomed.

True, there was something shabby about Novak Djokovic’s entry into Australia and his deportation.

Rather like combining the artistry of dance, the calculations of chess, and the ferocity of a gladiator, tennis is a very beautiful game that is extremely difficult to play really well.

For instance, no East African has ever qualified to play in the men’s or women’s singles at any of the four annual grand slam tournaments since independence!

So, with a star as big as Novak Djokovic, little Serbia’s emotions over his fate in Australia can be understood.

On the other hand, the Australian government repeated several times that Djokovic’s visa issued by authorities in Victoria would only stand if he had made honest entries in his visa application.

Djokovic may have underestimated the power of modern computers to sniff, tease out and align small details in logical patterns. After he took Australia to court the first time and won, the State probably deployed this power and found that Djokovic had lied in his entries about his December movements. Then the second visa cancellation was issued. The Australian State almost certainly put all this stuff before the three appeal judges on January 16.

Australians had endured very hard corona lockdown measures. Families had been separated, livelihoods disrupted. A general election was looming. Donald Trump was partly damned by Covid-19. Boris Johnson is tottering. Political and judicial perceptions converged. Djokovic was doomed.

West versus East? Serbian authorities have charged that Australia would have treated Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer with more respect.

That is hard to prove; because, over two corona years, neither Nadal nor Federer has behaved as recklessly as Djokovic.

Perhaps because of the protracted saga, one Ugandan broadcaster grossly misinformed his audience last weekend that it is Australia that controls world tennis!

Professional tennis is controlled by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), headquartered in London (UK) and Florida (USA) respectively.

The Australian government, whose deportation order made Djokovic unable to play in Melbourne, cannot disrupt the ATP’s arrangements at the French Open, Wimbledon, or the US Open.

Now, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer hold exactly 20 grand slam titles each. The insinuations from Belgrade, and the fact that Djokovic is the current World No.1 and reigning Australian Open Champion, make many casual observers assume that if he had played this year, his victory would be assured.

However, rankings and records tell only part of the story of tennis. 2021 could have signalled the beginning of Djokovic’s vulnerability. Although he took three grand slam titles, he was pushed to play incredibly good tennis in the final of the French Open before beating an injured Nadal, the then French Open favourite. Nadal had sustained his foot injury earlier in the season, and he was unable to play competitive tennis for the rest of the year after that match.

Following his triumph in Paris and at Wimbledon, Djokovic failed to win Olympic gold in Tokyo. He was beaten by Daniil Medvedev at the US Open. He was beaten into fourth place at the year-ending elite-of-eight masters tournament.

The players who upset Djokovic are playing in Australia; plus a recovered Nadal. I am writing on Tuesday. By the time you read this article, of the 128 men who started playing yesterday, 112 should have been knocked out. 

If I were in sports betting, I would not put my life’s savings on Djokovic beating any of the remaining 16, if he had been on the roll call.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.

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