'Did their job': Tennis great's shock call on Novak Djokovic fiasco

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Novak Djokovic is pictured here practising before the 2022 Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic's visa debacle has sparked a huge blame game. Pic: Getty

Tennis great Jim Courier has thrown his support behind embattled Australian Open boss Craig Tiley over the messy Novak Djokovic debacle.

Djokovic returned home to Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia and denied the chance to play for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title in Melbourne.

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The 11-day legal battle overshadowed the lead-up to the Australian Open as the World No.1 lost his fight to have his visa reinstated.

Public opinion over the saga has been widely divided with Serbia's president and prime minister echoing the sentiments of many of Djokovic's compatriots by insisting that he was treated like a criminal.

Many others have argued that the Serb only has himself to blame after refusing to get vaccinated and adhere to strict mandates imposed across Australia.

Then there is the case of Tennis Australia (TA), who have come under fire after granting the World No.1 a vaccination exemption to compete at the Australian Open.

The decision by two independent medical panels — appointed by TA and the Victorian government - to grant Djokovic a vaccine exemption to compete at Melbourne Park was ultimately overturned by Australian Border Force (ABF), who revoked the Serb's visa.

TA boss Tiley has faced a wave of backlash for his role in the fiasco, including calls for him to step down after initially giving Djokovic the green light to compete.

However, four-time grand slam champion-turned commentator, Courier, says neither TA or Tiley are to blame for the messy situation.

“Tennis Australia did their job,” Courier told Channel 9 on Tuesday.

“Their job is to try and help the players gain entry to the tournament. Tennis Australia is not the government. They do not issue visas.

“They do not allow players to cross borders so I don’t know that you can lay this at the feet of Craig or Tennis Australia.

“Their job is to make this wonderful tournament thrive. Unless some underhanded things happened which we’re not aware of, which I highly doubt, knowing Craig and his integrity. I don’t think there is any more fault to be laid at the feet of Tennis Australia.”

Pictured right, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley with champion Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Australian Open.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley (R) has faced plenty of criticism over the Novak Djokovic visa fiasco. Pic: Getty

Aussie tennis great John Newcombe also threw his backing behind Tiley but questioned why no one else at TA had spoken up in support of the Australian Open chief.

“I support Craig 100 per cent,” Newcombe told Fairfax.

“But I wonder why people who are above his pay grade in Tennis Australia were not there (to support Tiley) during this.

“This was above just tennis players. This was to do with the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria ... I wonder why he wasn’t really supported.”

Things go from bad to worse for Novak Djokovic

If being booted out of Australia wasn't bad enough for Djokovic, the 34-year-old also facing the prospect of being banned from the French Open and abandoned by a major sponsor.

One of Djokovic's major sponsors, Lacoste, said it would 'review' the situation around the World No.1 after his deportation from Australia.

Novak Djokovic would be banned from the French Open as well unless he is vaccinated. Image: Getty/AAP
Novak Djokovic would be banned from the French Open as well unless he is vaccinated. Image: Getty/AAP

The Serb is also facing the possibility of being banned from the French Open after a new vaccine mandate the country has introduced.

France's sports ministry announced on Monday that elite sportspeople would need to be vaccinated to perform in the country.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, approved by the French parliament on Sunday, "applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice."

The move appears to contradict an assertion from Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu last week that certain events like the French Open had a special exemption which could allow Djokovic to play in the tournament without being vaccinated against coronavirus.

Major events like the French Open previously permitted unvaccinated athletes to compete, as they operated a health bubble around the tournament.

with agencies

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