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Fact-checking Australian Open claims amid Djokovic’s controversial exit from Australia

The Australian Open began on Jan. 17 and claims circulated online, including about Djokovic’s exit from Australia. The VERIFY team looked into what’s true and false.
Credit: Various

The Australian Open is the first of four tennis Grand Slam tournaments held each year, coming before the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. This year, the Australian Open runs from Jan. 17 through Jan. 30. 

Prior to the first serve of the tournament, controversy surrounded the Australian Open due to unvaccinated Serbian tennis star and top-ranked men’s player Novak Djokovic’s visa fight to enter Australia so he could participate in the event. 

Australia has very strict COVID-19 related travel rules for foreigners to get a visa and enter the country. 

Djokovic’s visa troubles started in mid-November 2021 and continued for two months. Amid the Djokovic saga, several videos and claims spread online about the Australian Open. VERIFY looked into what’s true and false.

QUESTION #1

Was Novak Djokovic deported from Australia because he is not vaccinated?

There has been some confusion as to why Djokovic was deported, see an example here

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, it is true Djokovic’s visa was denied and he was deported from Australia because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

WHAT WE FOUND

Novak Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, was deported from Australia after a prolonged legal fight over his visa and COVID-19 vaccination immigration rules. 

Australia requires foreign visitors to be vaccinated or to apply for and be approved for an individual exemption. Exemptions can be issued for people who are unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons or on a case-by-case basis. If the traveler is not vaccinated, different states in Australia have different rules. In Victoria, where Melbourne and the Australian Open is located, international arrivals who are unvaccinated, or unable to prove they are vaccinated, are required to apply for an exemption, and if it is granted, quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.

In November, Djokovic received a temporary visa to enter Australia for the January tournament. After he received the temporary visa, he traveled to Serbia, where he tested positive for COVID-19. 

Djokovic said he received a medical exemption commissioned by Tennis Australia, the country’s governing body of tennis, on the grounds he had fully recovered from the virus. Djokovic claimed he met the requirements for a quarantine-free entry to Australia, per the exemption. 

But the Australian government said Djokovic did not meet Australia's requirements for the exemption.  

On Jan. 16,  Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoked Novak Djokovic’s visa. In explaining his decision, Hawke wrote in court documents: "In light of Mr. Djokovic’s stance on vaccination and acknowledged failure to follow precautionary measures following receipt of a positive COVID-19 test result, I consider that cancelling his visa would be consistent with the Australian Government’s strong stance on the benefits of vaccination and appropriate measures directed to managing the COVID-19 pandemic."

A panel of federal judges upheld Hawke’s decision. The ruling said Hawke’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was not “irrational” or “illogical.” 

The panel’s order said Djokovic’s attitude toward vaccines may stir anti-vaccine sentiment or provoke rallies, and there was evidence he may pose a health risk being unvaccinated.

QUESTION #2

Were Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer recorded mocking Novak Djokovic for thinking he could get into Australia without receiving the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Videos posted to Twitter showing the pair of tennis stars laughing have racked up more than a million views. One video has English subtitles that claim the pair is mocking Djokovic for his COVID-19 antics, like using a “phony medical exemption.”

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, this video is from 2010 and the interview was filmed before a Roger Federer Foundation event in Switzerland. The English subtitles were fabricated. 

WHAT WE FOUND

VERIFY traced the original interview video to 2010, when Federer and Nadal sat down prior to “Match for Africa,” a charitable tennis match. That video was posted to the YouTube channel of Credit Suisse, a financial firm based in Switzerland. Roger Federer is a brand ambassador for the firm.

The clip of the interview purporting to show tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal laughing about Djokovic originated from the German satirical website Watson.ch.

The article’s headline says: “Djokovic is stuck - Federer and Nadal's reaction is delicious” with a laughing emoji (translated via Google Translate). The article is listed under a “Fake News” category, with a disclaimer that the article is “satire - “(almost) no word is true!”

Credit: Watson.ch

The captions on the recent video posted to Twitter claim the pair were mocking Djokovic, saying things like: “He thought he could enter Australia without getting vaxed.” In the original video, Nadal and Federer were talking about what they were getting each other for Christmas.

QUESTION #3

Did Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupovic collapse at the 2022 Australian Open?

A video is circulating showing Jakupovic collapsing, with claims it happened at the 2022 Australian Open because Jakupovic is vaccinated for COVID-19. Videos of the collapse have garnered more than 88,000 views on Twitter since posting. The video has been shared across Facebook multiple times (see here, here and here).

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, Jakupovic did not collapse during the 2022 Australian Open. The video is from the 2020 Australian Open. Jakupovic collapsed after experiencing breathing difficulties due to air quality. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Dalila Jakupovic did not collapse during the 2022 Australian Open. She isn’t even competing in this year’s tournament. The video was taken during the 2020 season, before the first case COVID-19 was reported in Australia and before the COVID-19 vaccine was created. 

Using Twitter Advanced Search for “Dalila Jakupovic” and the Australian Open, VERIFY was able to find several news reports and videos from the 2020 Australian Open, where Jakupovic was seen collapsing on Jan. 13, 2020. 

According to reports, Jakupovic collapsed and was forced to withdraw from the 2020 Open because she was experiencing breathing difficulties due to the air quality in Melbourne. The air quality at the time was poor due to the raging bushfires that had been ongoing across Australia.

HEAD tennis, which was a Jakupovic sponsor during the 2020 Open also posted a video of the player to Twitter days after the collapse. In the video, she said she was feeling much better.

The Facebook posts claiming Jakupovic collapsed due to heart issues, with a connection to the COVID-19 vaccine, each have a disclaimer from Facebook that the post contains missing context or false information.

QUESTION #4

Have three players dropped out of the Australian Open because of COVID-19 vaccine-related chest issues?

An article from Free West Media has been shared hundreds of times across Facebook and Twitter, respectively, making the claim. The article says Nikoloz Basilashvili, Dalila Jakupovic and Nick Kyrgios all dropped out of the tournament because of issues related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

This is false. Nikolozi competed in the first round of the Open, and Nick Kyrgios advanced to the second round. Dalila Jakupovic did not enter the 2022 tournament.

WHAT WE FOUND

The article published on Jan. 10 from Free West Media, a fringe website that posts conspiratorial or non-credible information, claimed “several fully vaccinated tennis players participating in the Australian Open qualifying rounds have complained about tiredness and breathing problems.” The article then goes on to claim Nikoloz Basilashvili, Dalila Jakupovic and Nick Kyrgios all dropped out of the tournament.

Basilashvili did not drop out of the tournament, but was defeated in the first round of the tournament. In five sets, Andy Murray won 3-2 to defeat Basilashvili on Jan. 17.

Kyrgios is competing in both the men’s singles and men’s doubles tournaments. In men’s singles, he lost to Daniil Medvedev 3-1 on Jan. 19. He is set to play in Round 2 in men’s doubles on Jan. 21.

Jakupovic did not enter the 2022 Open. 

QUESTION #5

Is there evidence a ball girl collapsed during the 2022 Australian Open because of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Several tweets, a video circulating from video-sharing platform Rumble and an article from an online website all claim the collapse is suspicious and could be another “vaccine injury.”

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

There is no evidence the girl in the video collapsed on the court due to the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Australian Open broadcaster, she collapsed in the heat.

WHAT WE FOUND

The ball girl collapsed on Jan.17 on the court during the match between Spain’s Federico Delbonis and Argentina’s Pedro Martinez. 

Both players rushed to the aid of the girl. Wide World of Sports, the official broadcaster of the Australian Open, tweeted that the girl collapsed in the heat.

According to WeatherZone, an Australian weather app, January is Melbourne’s hottest month, with temperatures during the first week of the Open set to average 28.1 degrees Celsius, or 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit. According to AccuWeather, the temperature on Jan. 17, the day the girl collapsed, reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tennis Australia told 7News in Australia the girl’s condition improved after she sat in the ballkids lounge. The girl was checked over by medical staff and a nurse, before being picked up by parents, the report said. 

VERIFY reached out to Tennis Australia but did not hear back at the time of publication.

More from VERIFY: No, athletes don’t have to be vaccinated to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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