England netball star Geva Mentor on sympathy for Novak Djokovic after similar border issues

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·4-min read
Mentor was trying to back to her club side Melbourne's Collingwood Magpies when she was stranded in New Zealand (Sportsbeat)
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  • Geva Mentor
    British netball player
  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player

England netball star Geva Mentor knows what it's like to face border issues Down Under and has expressed her sympathy for Novak Djokovic's plight.

Mentor was temporarily stranded in New Zealand last September when the Vitality Roses series against Australia was called off and the charter flight to Australia, where she lives, was also cancelled. 

This meant the 37-year-old would have been stuck in New Zealand for two months waiting for a commercial flight before a generous businessman offered his help and she could make it back to Melbourne. 

Tennis superstar and defending Australian Open men’s singles champion Djokovic has garnered the world’s attention after being detained upon entry to Australia due to issues with his visa and vaccination status and was released from detention on Monday. 

Mentor said: “I think at the end of the day, you can't force someone to do what they don't want to do. However, you can make it clear in terms of what's required.  

“For example, in his [Djokovic’s] case, if it's a requirement to be vaccinated to play in a tournament then so be it. If you have an exemption, then that needs to be clear.

“One of the biggest things I've learned is the more communication the better, then there's no-one having a little snigger or nip from side to side. 

“I feel that it needs to be clear to start with and I think it all could have been avoided if it was clear. 

“However, I do feel sorry for Novak, facing immigration is a terrifying thing when you turn up to passport control, and to be denied, I just hope that his mental health hasn't been too affected by that.”

The Bournemouth-born netball defender is back on English soil for the first time in over two years and will join up with her Roses teammate for the Quad Series at London’s Copper Box Arena this weekend. 

Reigning Commonwealth Games champions England will take on world champions New Zealand, World No.1 Australia and fifth-ranked South Africa in a tournament seen as a dress rehearsal for the defence of their Commonwealth title in Birmingham in July. 

“It's so exciting to start off the international calendar on home soil, hopefully with a packed crowd,” she said.  

“To be able to connect back with the netball community who have been so supportive throughout this whole pandemic is great. 

"Providing them top-notch, elite netball, not just from us as an English side, but having some of the top nations - in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand - playing at the Copper Box as well is just going to be so special 

“I think the cherry on top will be playing my 150th cap with an amazing group of people and hopefully an amazing environment.  

“It'll be a real special moment because I'll be able to share it with my friends and family, actually playing this milestone on English soil.” 

Thanks to the help of social media, and strangers, the three-time Commonwealth Games medallist spent only 12 days stranded in New Zealand before returning to Australia where she has got the inside track on England’s opponents in their final round-robin match. 

She added: “The exciting thing about a lot of the girls now in the England Roses side is we do also play overseas, so we've got some girls that play in New Zealand like George Fisher.  

“She'll be able to give us some intel on the Kiwis and myself and a few others know about the Aussies with playing over in Australia. 

“Not only do I have intel on them, they probably have intel on me.” 

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