Novak Djokovic set to be deported from Australia after losing visa appeal

Melbourne, Australia - Top tennis player Novak Djokovic will be deported from Australia after failing to overturn the decision to cancel his visa over his exemption from taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

Novak Djokovic was seen on the court on Friday as he was allowed to practice ahead of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Novak Djokovic was seen on the court on Friday as he was allowed to practice ahead of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.  © IMAGO/AAP

The verdict from Chief Justice James Allsop came following a unanimous decision from the three judges hearing the case at the Federal Court of Australia on Sunday.

The decision means nine-time champion Djokovic will not be defending his title at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, and is banned from Australia for three years – although that can be waived.

Djokovic had the option of trying to take the legal fight further but said in a statement he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision but would cooperate with the deportation.

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He said: "I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.

"I am extremely disappointed with the ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.

"I respect the court’s ruling and I’ll cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.

"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament."

Chief Justice Allsop delivered the verdict just before 6 PM in Melbourne, after the court deliberated for around two hours following submissions from both parties.

The battle over Djokovic’s vaccination status has ended one day before the tournament

Novak Djokovic departed from the Park Hotel government detention facility before attending a court hearing at his lawyers office in Melbourne on Sunday.
Novak Djokovic departed from the Park Hotel government detention facility before attending a court hearing at his lawyers office in Melbourne on Sunday.  © IMAGO/AAP

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke re-cancelled Djokovic’s visa on Friday using personal powers after the world number one had won an appeal against the initial decision to bar him from the country when he arrived last week.

Djokovic, who spent another night at the Park detention hotel on Saturday, had been due to face compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday but has been replaced in the draw by lucky loser Salvatore Caruso.

Hawke’s decision on Friday was unexpectedly based not on the validity or otherwise of Djokovic’s exemption from Covid-19 vaccination, which was the reason for the initial cancellation, but on the notion his presence in the country could stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, making him a danger to public health, as well as civil unrest.

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To succeed in an appeal, Djokovic’s legal team, led by Nick Wood, had to prove that Hawke had either acted outside his powers or that his decision was irrational, and Chief Justice Allsop made a point of stressing the judges were not able to assess the merits of the case.

Wood said: "Not a single line of evidence in the material provided any specific or logical foundation whatsoever that the mere presence of Mr Djokovic in Australia in itself may somehow foster anti-vaccination sentiment."

Djokovic created global headlines early in the pandemic for being quoted as saying he was "opposed to vaccination," although he later clarified that he was against being forced to take a vaccine to travel to tournaments and would keep an open mind on the issue.

Cover photo: IMAGO/AAP

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