Novak Djokovic’s saga in Australia ended yesterday with his deportation. Although there was an initial ruling in his favor, a federal court agreed with the Immigration Minister and decided that the best tennis player in the world had to leave Australia, without the possibility of playing the Open. Although this looks like a defeat for the Serb, as I read in an excellent column by Juan Manuel de Prada, Djokovic will transcend this bitter episode as an absolute legend.
In times of docility and fragility, we must commend the courageous stance of someone who, against the public pressure of governments and hysterics, remained attached to his principles, whatever they may be. The point here is not whether Djokovic is anti-vaxxer or not. The point here is that he believed in something, and did something, defending it to the end. The debate is not about the pandemic, but about freedom. How the best tennis player in the world, healthy and powerful, was not allowed to play in the Australian Open because he did not conform to the irrational rules that the pandemic has left as a legacy.
That Australia has been descending into a spiral of sanitary authoritarianism is nothing new. Hundreds have been beaten up for not wearing masks or standing up against lockdowns. And so, with these blows of explicit totalitarianism, the democracies of the world, which we believed to be first world, modern and almost perfect, have been exposed.
They took away Djokovic’s chance to win a title, but they have elevated him to a symbol of freedom and the fight against sanitary authoritarianism. I don’t care that those are now the rules in Australia and that the tennis player has disrespected them. Many other aberrations of the past, such as apartheid or slavery, were also law. The fact that someone cannot freely enter a country because of his individual and legitimate decision not to get vaccinated is an aberration, in Australia or in any other country in the world.
At the end, as my friend Andrés I. Henriquez said, the players remaining in the Australia Open are now competing for the second place. Djokovic will continue, with his talent intact, to be the best tennis player in the world—remembered for generations to come, regardless of the tantrums of a minister who for the first time feels powerful. And this tournament will only be remembered in the future because it was the Australia Open in which the best tennis player in the world could not compete due to ridiculous and crazy rules.