ANALYSIS

Novak Djokovic row ahead of Australian Open fires up the world media

Novak Djokovic practices on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the 2022 Australian Open, at Melbourne Park on January 11. Picture: Getty Images
Novak Djokovic practices on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the 2022 Australian Open, at Melbourne Park on January 11. Picture: Getty Images

The Novak Djokovic story has got the world's most imaginative headline writers energised.

"DJOK SHOCK" screams the ultra-popular Sun in Britain: "Five ways Djokovic 'may have flouted Covid rules'."

It then repeats the play on words (presumably because you can't rework a good djoke too many times): "DJOK HORROR: 7 unanswered questions about Djokovic visa row".

The British media can't get enough of the story, and they've been helped by a good spat on their own turf.

The ultra-populist politician Nigel Farage burnished his right-wing credentials by going to Serbia to show his support for the Serbian tennis star.

After the court ruling in Melbourne, Mr Farage Tweeted: "A huge win for @DjokerNole this morning."

"If that judgment this morning is overruled, what's the difference between Australia and a banana republic?" Mr Farage asked.

But it provoked an angry - or maybe just witty - response from the tennis player Andy Murray: "Please record the awkward moment when you tell them you've spent most of your career campaigning to have people from Eastern Europe deported."

Touché. In the past, Mr Farage has campaigned against immigration to Britain from places like, well, Serbia. Andy Murray's volley provoked only an insult in reply - Mr Farage suggested that the famously serious tennis player should smile more. Oscar Wilde it wasn't.

Much of the foreign coverage of the Australian saga has been one of mere wonderment. It has the air of people looking over the fence and seeing their lovely neighbours scrapping on the lawn.

Editors don't quite know which way to play it. Is it: spoilt rich celebrity gets different treatment from ordinary people, or one person's challenge to a government? David versus Goliath or "Rules are only for little people" are the competing, contradictory narratives.

The Japan Times takes the lone hero defeats Aussie despots view: "Djokovic's rare victory against Australia's COVID-19 tyranny", it shouts.

The Times of India relishes the not-so-private expletive-laden discussion between two news readers on Channel 7: "'He's going to get away with it': Australia news anchors caught in Djokovic 'hot mic'."

But, either way, fascinated the world's media are. Europe's best-selling newspaper, the German Bild reports: "Die Atmosphaere in Melbourne ist zum Bersten gespannt!" (The atmosphere in Melbourne is bursting with excitement).

It's fair to say that the row - the bungle - has not enhanced Australia's reputation. A column in the Canadian paper The National Post is headlined: "Djokovic's legal victory makes a joke of Australia's COVID-19 policy."

And then he can't resist the old line, referring to Scott Morrison: "The Djoke could be on him."

Despite the relish for the story, much of the coverage is not condemnatory of Australia, or not yet anyway.

There is intense interest in how the Morrison government gets out of its difficulty of having allowed an unvaccinated person into the country without quarantine and with an untruthful answer on his entry document.

There is an exception to the bemused tone of much of the coverage abroad.

The Serbian news site Informer quoted a Serbian film-maker on the "arrest of Novak Djokovic, first among the free, a rebel who does not want the chains of the new world and believes in a more just order".

"Aren't punishments for those who don't want to be vaccinated just one step of the World Government towards realizing the idea of planetary domination?"

It's a point of view.

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This story The Djoke's on us: how the world views the Djokovic saga first appeared on The Canberra Times.