Czech tennis player Renata Voracova has had the cancellation of her visa overturned by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia in a staggering twist to the Novak Djokovic saga.
Voracova had her visa cancelled and was deported from Australia in January in the midst of Djokovic’s battle with the Australian government.
Like Djokovic, Voracova was unvaccinated and initially gained entry into the country via a medical exemption issued by Tennis Australia on behalf of the Victorian government.
But as the Djokovic scandal erupted and the Serbian star had his visa revoked, so too did Voracova.
The Czech player accepted her fate and was subsequently deported, but the controversy took a new twist on Thursday.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia has overturned the cancellation of her visa, finding there was no evidence that she failed to comply with the conditions of it.
“There was no evidence Ms Voracova failed to comply with her visa conditions,” said Jan Redfern, the tribunal’s vice president and head of the migration and refugee division.
“She had followed all relevant rules and there was evidence she had relied on representations made to her by Tennis Australia and the Department of Health in Victoria about her medical exemption.
“I accept the submission that there was no law preventing Ms Voracova from entering Australia at the relevant time even though she was unvaccinated.
“She truthfully answered the travel declaration and she had cogent medical evidence to support her exemption, being the evidence provided by her general practitioner about her vulnerability to thrombosis.
“Notably, Ms Voracova did not need to rely on the fact that she had previously contracted COVID-19 as a medical contraindication to vaccination because she had a medical basis to delay vaccination.”
Crucially, Redfern reportedly ruled that Voracova was not opposed to getting vaccinated, which distinguished her situation to that of Djokovic.
Speaking after winning his 21st grand slam at Wimbledon this month, Djokovic revealed he still isn’t vaccinated and has no plans to get the Covid jab.
“At the time of my oral decision, I was not satisfied that Ms Voracova’s presence would or might be such as to impact the health of the Australian community or a segment of the Australian community,” Redfern said.
“I was therefore not satisfied that the ground for cancellation was made out.
“I also note, for completeness, that Ms Voracova’s case can be distinguished from Djokovic because her visa was not cancelled on the grounds of ‘good order,’ nor do the circumstances of her case lend themselves to such a conclusion.
“As noted, Ms Voracova is not opposed to vaccination and, unlike the Djokovic case where the minister apparently found there was evidence Mr Djokovic had shown a disregard for the self-isolation protocols, there is no such evidence before me to this effect in this case.”
Novak Djokovic likely to be allowed back into Australia
Djokovic’s visa was eventually cancelled – after various court challenges – on the grounds that his standing as a high-profile international figure could result in the spread of anti-vaxx sentiment after he’d publicly declared his opposition to getting the jab.
He now faces a three-year ban from Australia after the cancellation of his visa, but that is likely to be waived considering the country no longer requires proof of vaccination for overseas travellers to enter.
“Migration legislation provides that a person whose visa has been cancelled may be subject to a three-year exclusion period that prevents the grant of a further temporary visa,” a Department of Immigration spokesperson said recently.
“The exclusion period will be considered as part of any new visa application and can be waived in certain circumstances.”
Elsewhere on Wednesday, US Open officials revealed they won’t seek exemptions for unvaccinated players to enter the United States for the hard-court grand slam.
With the United States still requiring proof of vaccination for international travellers, Djokovic looks almost-certain to miss the tournament at Flushing Meadows.