'Novak Djokovic's behaviour is pathetic - he should set an example, not act like a brat'

By Rachael Bletchly

I suppose I ought to have sympathy for tennis ace Novak Djokovic, having once been in his shoes.

In 2003 I had my own immigration hiccup - in America - and after a frightening and humiliating 55-hour ordeal I was kicked out of the country.

I wasn’t trying to sneak in or bend the rules. It was a genuine mistake.

I’d been sent to Los Angeles on a story but didn’t know rules had changed post 9/11 and that foreign journalists needed visas to work in the US. I was held at passport control, had my phone confiscated and was fingerprinted and body-searched.

I was moved to a tiny airless room for processing and held incommunicado without any update on my case. Finally Alien: Bletchly, Rachael, No 95648711 was marched in handcuffs to a plane door and removed from the Land of the Free.

The officials were rude and I was treated appallingly. But I have absolutely no issue with the decision to deport me. I did not have the relevant documentation permitting me to work in the US. And rules are rules.

Novak Djokovic, pictured at border force in Melbourne after his flight landed on Wednesday (TWITTER)

Anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic thinks he should be allowed into Australia to defend his Open title without adhering to their strict Covid laws. His attempt to get round the issue with a “medical exemption” due to a recent Covid infection, is the worst kind of exceptionalism.

So I’m afraid I have absolutely NO sympathy with Djokovic – the multi-millionaire sportsman now being compared to Jesus because of his victimisation.

His family in Serbia claim the Aussies are trying to “crucify” him and use him as a political pawn. Come off it!

Djokovic may be stuck in a grotty hotel room rather than the 5* palaces he’s used to, but at least he has a bed, a shower and hot meals. I had a row of hard plastic seats, wet wipes and a couple of stale sandwiches.

Djokovic also has the enormous privilege of being a hero and role model to millions of young people.

That makes his behaviour even more pathetic. He should set an example, not act like a brattish young McEnroe and kick off when things don’t go his way.

As old rival Rafa Nadal said, Djokovic “knew the conditions a lot of months ago, so he made his own decision. I believe in what the people who know about medicine say - and if they say we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine”.

Let’s hope young tennis fans follow in Rafa’s footsteps and give No-vax the contempt he deserves.

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