Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record 21st grand slam title and, with it, tennis immortality, has been thrown into turmoil with his dramatic deportation order out of Australia.
Missing the Australian Open – and potentially the following two editions at Melbourne Park unless he successfully appeals an automatic three-year ban from the country – could just be the tip of the iceberg for the world No.1.
With global travel restrictions continuing to tighten for the unvaccinated, Djokovic could encounter similar visa issues in many other countries, including the host nations of the other three annual grand slam events.
As it stands, the unjabbed superstar will not be permitted into America for this year’s US Open, he may not be allowed into Britain for Wimbledon and his access to Paris for the French Open remains uncertain.
As a citizen of the European Union, Djokovic is likely to be allowed into Paris to defend his Roland Garros crown providing he follows France’s current and strict protocols for the unvaccinated.
But French president Emmanuel Macron is taking an increasingly hardline stance on the unvaccinated and vowing to limit “as much as possible their access to activities in social life.”
“We have to tell them (the unvaccinated) you will no longer be able to got to a restaurant, you will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre, you will no longer be able to go to the cinema. We will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy,” he said recently.
How that leaves the Monte Carlo-based Djokovic, should he not get vaccinated before the French Open starts in late May, is anyone’s guess.
As for now, Djokovic, who reluctantly accepted his fate on Sunday night after failing in a last-ditch effort to have his Australia visa reinstated at the Federal Court, says he will cooperate with authorities to leave Australia.
“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this,” the Serb said.
Locked on 20 grand slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and on the record as obsessed in his pursuit of the all-time men’s majors record, Djokovic may also need to use his time out to reflect on his vaccination status.
The 34-year-old’s sensational exit from Australia before a ball has even been hit at the season-opening slam starting on Monday has completed one of the most spectacular, and swift, falls from grace in sporting history.
It was only five months ago that the super Serb stood on the precipice of a feat no man in tennis history had ever achieved.
But even after falling short in his quest for a “golden slam” after losing to Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic still closed in on a fabled calendar-year grand slam sweep.
Alas, a straight-sets defeat to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final, after Djokovic had won the 2021 Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon crowns, left Rod Laver in 1969 as still the only man in more than half a century of professional tennis to win all four majors in a single year.
Now the world No.1’s immediate career lay in tatters, with Djokovic at an alarming crossroad.