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Djokovic arrives in Serbia after French Open questions raise

BELGRADE (AP) -- Novak Djokovic, who was unable to defend his Australian Open title, returned home Monday only to find a new problem: He could also be barred this year from the French Open if he is still not vaccinated for COVID-19.

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Djokovic arrives in Serbia after French Open questions raise


The No. 1 ranked player was flown on a plane. The plane carrying the No. 1 player landed in Serbia. This marks the end of a dizzying story that resonates in Australia's pandemic politics, the heated debate about coronavirus shots, and in elite sport.


At Belgrade's airport, a few people waved the Serbian flag to greet him. Djokovic is an icon in Serbia and many feel that Australia has treated him poorly.


His troubles are not over, however. He could be banned from the French Open in this year's French Open due to a new law that prohibits unvaccinated people from public venues and other public areas. While much could happen between now and the Grand Slam tournament's start in May, it raised concerns that the Australian saga may not be a temporary blip, but that it would pose a continuing challenge for the athlete who is being held up as an anti-vaccine hero.


Christophe Castaner (a member of the French parliament) stated that the new law will be applicable to all who want to play in the French Open. This is a reverse of previous plans to create a bubble around the tournament.


To be able to do your job, come for pleasure, leisure or to play a sport, you will need to have a vaccination. This will apply to French citizens as well as foreigners visiting our country for vacation or major sporting competitions," Roxana Maracineanu, Sports Minister, told BFM television Monday.


Some details of the law remain to be negotiated, including how it will handle people who have recently recovered COVID-19. Djokovic claims he has. It is important to know how recent the infection must be in order to be eligible for exemption from vaccination rules.


Djokovic is also Wimbledon's defending champion. The tournament begins in June. England has so far allowed visiting athletes to be exempt from certain coronavirus regulations if they stayed at their accommodation while not training or competing. The U.S. Tennis Association runs the U.S. Open and has stated that it will adhere to government vaccination rules.


It is not known when Djokovic will return to Australia. A three-year ban from returning to the country can result in deportation. However, this can be waived depending on the circumstances.


Djokovic is currently receiving a warm reception in Serbia, where his closest relatives live. Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's President, has accused Australia of harassing the tennis star at the top and asked him to return home.

One of the banners that the supporters held at the airport read "God Bless Novak", before he was taken through customs and passport control, and driven by Djordje to his Belgrade apartment.


According to Tanjug, Djokovic's mother Dijana said that her son would remain in Belgrade over the next few days. She will not make any statements to the media.


Djokovic's Australian adventure began when he was allowed to play in the Australian Open under strict vaccination rules. This exemption was granted by two medical panels as well as the tournament organizer. He provided documents that showed he had COVID-19 and had just had it. Through an automated process, he was granted a visa to enter Canada. However, upon his arrival, border officials declared that the exemption was invalid and ordered him to be deported.


Australia was angered when it became known that the star had been exempted from the virus. Since then, strict city lockdowns and restrictions on international travel have been in place to stop the spread of the virus.


More than 95% are vaccinated among the Top 100 tennis players, both men and women. Due to vaccine requirements, at least two other men -- Pierre-Hugues Herbert from France and Tennys Sandgren from America -- missed the Australian Open.


Djokovic was eventually deported by Australian authorities. They claimed that his presence could cause anti-vaccine sentiments and that it was necessary to kick him out. Djokovic was deported Sunday, just a day before the tournament began in Melbourne.


Djokovic won nine titles in the tournament before. Djokovic had hoped to win his 21st Grand Slam singles title, breaking the record that he shares with Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal for most men's tennis titles. Federer isn't playing due to injury. Nadal, however, is competing.


Djokovic admitted that he had been to Belgrade in December with L'Equipe journalists after testing positive for coronavirus. Later, he called this an "error" in judgment.


When asked if Djokovic would be punished for not following his isolation when he was infected, Serbian officials replied that he wouldn't because Serbia isn't in a state emergency.


Djokovic is a Serbian national hero. His president called the Australian court hearing "a farce with many lies."


Snezana Jankovic, Belgrade resident, said, "Novak! Welcome home, you know we all support you," They can take your visa away, but they can't take your Serbian pride away.

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