Novak Djokovic’s sponsors seek a ‘please explain’ after Australian deportation fiasco

Lacoste, the French clothing manufacturer, became the first of the Serb’s backers to speak out following the end of an extraordinary 10-day saga sparked by his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“As soon as possible, we will be in touch with Novak Djokovic to review the events that have accompanied his presence in Australia,” Lacoste said in a statement.

It came as the French government announced any player hoping to compete in the French Open, the next grand slam in the tennis calendar, will not be exempt from vaccine rules.

The government said that a tough new vaccine pass law, approved by parliament on Sunday, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

“As far as Roland Garros is concerned, it’s in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope it’ll be more favourable. So we’ll see but clearly there’s no exemption,” the French sports ministry said in a statement.

The move leaves Djokovic, who is hoping to win a record 21st Grand Slam title, facing the prospect of missing two of the four blue ribbon events this year.

Djokovic was thrown out of Australia on Sunday – and banned from returning for three years – after the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, said he had become “perceived by some as a talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment”.

‘Anti-vaxx poster boy’

Marcel Knobil, the founder of Superbrands and the Brand Council consultancy, told The Telegraph that Djokovic’s £22 million annual endorsements could be at risk if he embraced being portrayed as “the anti-vaxx poster boy”.

Before he was deported from Australia, the player said he was “extremely disappointed” after a Federal Court upheld the cancellation of his visa on public order grounds.

Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, did however hint that the player could be allowed to return to Australia within three years “in the right circumstances”.

Mr Morrison on Monday defended his handling of the situation and differentiated Djokovic’s case from vaccine sceptics within his own government.

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