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Doubts over Novak Djokovic’s being able to compete in French Open as plane touches down in Serbia

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Novak Djokovic could be denied permission to compete in the French Open as his plane touched down Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia.

The tennis star’s deportation from the country over not being vaccinated from Covid ends a remarkable showdown with the Australian government, and has dashed his hopes of defending the Australian Open.

A plane carrying the No 1 ranked player from his stopover in Dubai touched down in Belgrade on Monday to a handful of fans waving the Serbian flag at the airport.

Djokovic arriving home to Serbia after being deported from Australia (AP)
Djokovic arriving home to Serbia after being deported from Australia (AP)

But doubts are now being raised overwhether he will be able to compete in the French Open in May after the French government said a vaccine pass would be required for athletes at upcoming events.

French sports minister, Roxana Maracineau, said in a post on Sunday night: “The vaccine pass has been adopted.

“As soon as the law is promulgated, it will become compulsory to enter public buildings already subject to the health pass (stadium, theatre or lounge) for all spectators, practitioners, French or foreign professionals.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

If the law is in place by May, Djokovic could miss a second major tournament because of his anti-vaccination stance - unless he decides to get the jab.

It could see a repeat of events in Australia, where Djokovic had argued in court that he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete because a recent Covid infection exempted him from vaccination rules.

But the Australian government later revoked his visa again citing public interest grounds, saying he could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment if allowed to stay in the country.

The tennis star had hoped to win his 21st Grand Slam singles trophy at the Australian Open, breaking the record he shares with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam victories in the history of men’s tennis.

Federer is not playing while recovering from injury, but Nadal is competing.

The Australian government’s decision to deport Djokovic from Melbourne has proved popular with many Australians, who have endured tough lockdowns.

Fans cheer their support for Djokovic in Australia (AP)
Fans cheer their support for Djokovic in Australia (AP)

But Djokovic has been backed by many in his native Serbia, with president Aleksandar Vučić calling the Australian court hearing “a farce with a lot of lies”.

The World No 1 admitted that he undertook a newspaper interview a day after testing positive in Belgrade on December 16, calling it “an error” of judgement.

Serbian officials have said he will face no penalties for flouting isolation rules while infected because the country is not in a state of emergency.

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