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Renata Voracova becomes second tennis player to be detained by Australian authorities


Renata Voracova of Czech Republic

Renata Voracova of Czech Republic

Renata Voracova of Czech Republic

Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was joined in Australian immigration detention by Czech women's player Renata Voracova on Friday in a row over COVID-19 vaccines that could scupper the Serbian's shot at a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.

Unlike Djokovic, whose determination to play in the Australian Open has rallied his homeland, 81st-ranked Voracova planned to leave the country after being held in similar circumstances, the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Renata Voracova decided to drop out of the tournament due to limited possibilities for training and to leave Australia," it said, adding that it had made a diplomatic protest and that several other players were also at the modest Park Hotel.

Djokovic, widely criticised in 2020 for hosting a tournament as the COVID-19 pandemic was first raging, was detained at Melbourne's airport on Wednesday. Authorities revoked a visa granted on the basis of a medical exemption from Australia's strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The initial decision to grant him entry outraged many in Australia, which is battling its worst surge

The Australian government pushed back on Friday against suggestions by Serbian supporters, including Djokovic's family, that he was a prisoner. "He is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that," Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews told reporters.

Djokovic's lawyers won legal approval for him to remain until a full court hearing against the federal government on Monday. That should reveal more details about the exemption granted to Djokovic and the documentation he provided at the border to support it.

The 34-year-old has not revealed the grounds for the exemption and has consistently refused to disclose his vaccination status, while publicly criticising mandatory doses.

Vaccines are not mandatory in Australia but are required for a range of activities.

As he was confined for a second day to his room in the hotel, where several Afghan immigration detainees have been for months, Djokovic's plight drew a mixed response the tennis world.

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Former World No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion Boris Becker said Djokovic, whom he has coached, was making a big mistake with his anti-vaccination stance.

"It is one that threatens what remains of his career and his chance to cement himself as the greatest player of all time," Becker wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.

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