A tennis legend faces deportation for the second time in one week, said the Australian government after revoking Novak Djokovic’s visa.
The 34-year-old Serbian visitor will be allowed to compete in the Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne despite being unvaccinated for the COVID-19, an immigration minister Alex Hawke confirmed Friday. Commenting on the decision, Hawke said he had to use his ministerial discretion to cancel Novak’s visa on public interest grounds.
After a one-week-long investigation, the Australian authorities have cancelled Djokovic’s entry visa just three days before play begins at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
Three hours later, Djokovic’s legal team began their appeal against the immigration minister’s decision in an after-hours hearing at the Federal Circuit and Family Court. The same judge, Anthony Kelly, ruled in favour of Djokovic last week on procedural grounds after Serb’s visa was first cancelled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.
Djokovic’s lawyer hopes to avoid deportation
Nick Wood, a lawyer who defends Novak Djokovic, hoped that an appeal will be heard on Sunday and that Djokovic would have his visa returned in time for him to play on Monday.
So far, Djokovic would remain free on Friday night but would effectively return to immigration detention when he meets with Australian Border Force officials on Saturday. He returned to hotel detention on Saturday afternoon, according to the Australian rules for unvaccinated persons.
“The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vaxx sentiment in the event that he’s present,” Wood said.
Australia’s PM Scott Morrison himself hailed Djokovic’s pending deportation. Tennis star’s unexpected behaviour has touched a nerve in Australia, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is an immunization rate among adults of more than 90%.
If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he would be replaced in the field by what’s known as a “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but gets into the main draw because of another player’s exit before competition has started.
And if Djokovic plays in a match – or more – and then is told he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent would simply advance to the following round and there would be no replacement.