Tennis star Novak Djokovic is set to be deported from Australia after losing a last-ditch court bid to stay in the country.
Judges rejected the Serbian’s challenge to the government’s decision to cancel his visa on “health and good order” grounds.
The world number one’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title and winning a record 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne are over.
Novak Djokovic, 34, said he was “extremely disappointed” but accepted the ruling.
He said in a statement: “I will co-operate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.”
It was not immediately clear when he would leave.
Novak Djokovic’s supporters fell silent outside the courtroom as the decision was announced.
Australian PM Scott Morrison welcomed “the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe”.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said.
Novak Djokovic launched the case after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial powers to cancel the unvaccinated player’s visa, arguing that his presence in the country risked fanning anti-vaccine sentiment.
It was the second time Novak Djokovic’s visa had been revoked, after a first cancelation over not following Covid entry rules was overturned by a different judge.
During January 16 court hearing before a three-judge panel, Novak Djokovic’s defense unsuccessfully argued that the grounds given by the government were “invalid and illogical”.
Chief Justice James Allsop said the federal court’s ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision, not on the “merits or wisdom of that decision”.
Full reasoning for the ruling will be made public in the coming days, he said.
Deportation orders usually include a three-year ban on returning to Australia, though this can be waived in certain circumstances.
The January 16 decision marks the end of a 10-day saga over Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa.
There has been much public anger in Australia over the player’s attempt to enter the country unvaccinated. The federal government has repeatedly said people must comply with the strict laws in place to deal with the pandemic, and that no-one is “above the law”.
Novak Djokovic was originally granted a medical exemption to enter Australia by two different independent health panels – one commissioned by Tennis Australia, the other by the state government of Victoria – after testing positive for coronavirus in mid-December.
However, the Australian Border Force detained him on January 5 for not meeting federal coronavirus requirements.
A judge later overturned that decision, but the government stepped in on January 14 to revoke the visa again, saying doing so was in the public interest.
Although Novak Djokovic is not vaccinated against Covid-19, he has not actively promoted anti-vax disinformation. However, Australian anti-vaxxers have been using the hashtag #IStandWithDjokovic on social media.
Australian opposition politician Kristina Keneally accused the government of a “litany of failures” in dealing with Djokovic’s visa application, as she questioned why the tennis player was granted a visa to begin with.
The government “mishandled Novak Djokovic’s case, undermined Australia’s border security settings, and provided a lightning rod for the anti-vaccination movement”, she argued.
In his statement on January 16, Novak Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” with the focus placed on him because of the visa row.
“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” he said.
Italy’s Salvatore Caruso, who is ranked 150th in the world, will now replace Novak Djokovic in his match against Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic on January 17.
Novak Djokovic has been detained in Australia ahead of a court hearing that will determine whether he can stay in the country.
The men’s tennis No 1 faces deportation after his visa was canceled for a second time, with the government labelling him a threat to public health.
Novak Djokovic’s lawyers are appealing against what they called an “irrational” decision, with the hearing set for January 16.
The 34-year-old unvaccinated tennis star is still scheduled to play the Australian Open on January 17 in Melbourne.
If the Serbian were to win the tournament, he would become the most successful men’s tennis player in the history of the sport with 21 major titles.
However, January 16 hearing, which has been scheduled for 09:30 local time, is crucial if Djokovic is to be able to compete just hours later.
If he loses the appeal, the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player faces deportation and a three-year visa ban.
On January 15, shortly after an online pre-trial hearing, Novak Djokovic returned to the immigration detention hotel where he was held earlier this week. He will remain there until his final appeal on January 16.
Novak Djokovic’s visa was first revoked shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on January 6, after Australian Border Force officials said he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to receive a vaccine exemption.
The tennis star was detained for days at an immigration hotel, before his visa was reinstated by a judge, who ordered his release, ruling that border officials ignored correct procedure when he arrived.
On January 14, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke once again canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa under separate powers in Australia’s Migration Act.
The act allows the minister to deport anyone he deems a potential risk to “the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.
PM Scott Morrison said the decision followed “careful consideration”.
Alluding to the heavy criticism his government has faced for allowing the unvaccinated player into Australia, Scott Morrison said: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
Court documents were released on January 15 that showed Alex Hawke chose to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa because – in his view – the unvaccinated player’s presence could fuel opposition to Covid-19 vaccination.
“[I] consider that his presence may be a risk to the health of the Australian community,” he wrote in a letter to Novak Djokovic and his lawyers, adding that he believed it could also provoke “civil unrest” because he is “a person of influence and status”.
Novak Djokovic’s legal team say their grounds for appeal will centre on the “invalid and illogical” rationale of Alex Hawke’s decision, which lawyer Nick Wood said was based on the threat of “exciting anti-vax sentiment”.
Nick Wood said he believed deporting the Serbian player would potentially do the same thing.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, meanwhile, condemned the Australian minister’s decision, telling Novak Djokovic in an Instagram message: “Novak, we stand by you.”
“If you wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne why didn’t you return him immediately, why didn’t you tell him ‘it is impossible to obtain a visa’?” President Vucic added.
Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, one of Novak Djokovic’s biggest rivals, said on January 15: “[The] Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, okay. If he’s not playing, the Australian Open will be great… with or without him.”
Japanese player Naomi Osaka described the controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic as “an unfortunate situation”.
“He’s such a great player and it’s kind of sad that some people might remember [him] in this way. But I also think it’s… up to the government how Australia is deciding to handle it,” she added.
Australia has canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time in a row over the tennis star’s right to remain in the country unvaccinated.
The decision on “health and good order” grounds means the 34-year-old Serbian could be deported and get a three-year visa ban.
However, Novak Djokovic can still launch another legal challenge to remain in Australia.
The men’s tennis No 1 was scheduled to play in the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement: “Today I exercised my power… to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”
PM Scott Morrison said that the decision followed “careful consideration.”
Alluding to the heavy criticism his government has faced for allowing the unvaccinated player into Australia, the prime minister said: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
Novak Djokovic will meet immigration officials in Melbourne on January 15, and will be allowed to stay in his current accommodation on January 14 – some Australian media had speculated that he may be moved to an immigration detention hotel.
The nine-time Australian Open winner was hoping to defend his title next week, which if he won, would make him the most successful male tennis player in history with a record 21 Grand Slam titles.
For the moment, Novak Djokovic remains in the Australian Open draw and is due to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic early next week. If he is deported, however, his slot will most likely go to Russian player Andrey Rublev.
Novak Djokovic’s visa was first revoked shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on January 6, after Australian border Force officials said he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to receive a vaccine exemption.
The palyer’s initial announcement that he was coming to play in the Open prompted a backlash from some Australians, who have lived under long and strict Covid lockdowns, because it was unclear if he could meet Australia’s strict entry rules. Melbourne in particular was hard bit by lockdowns, enduring 262 days under heavy restrictions last year.
Novak Djokovic was detained for hours at the airport’s immigration control when he first arrived, and then spent days at an immigration hotel. Days later his visa was reinstated by a judge, who ordered his release, ruling that border officials ignored correct procedure when he arrived.
However, on January 14, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa under separate powers in Australia’s Migration Act.
The act allows the minister to deport anyone he deems a potential risk to “the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.
However, Novak Djokovic can still appeal this.
It comes after Djokovic addressed allegations that his agent had accidentally made a false declaration on his travel form.
Novak Djokovic also admitted meeting a journalist and having a photoshoot after testing positive for Covid-19.
Novak Djokovic’s entry to Australia has been delayed over an issue with his visa.
The No 1 tennis player arrived in Melbourne on January 5, where authorities noticed that his team had made a mistake on his application.
Novak Djokovic is due to play in the Australian Open, after being exempted from vaccination rules.
However, the Serbian player’s team had not requested a visa that permits medical exemptions for being unvaccinated.
All players and staff at the tournament must be vaccinated or have an exemption granted by an expert independent panel.
Djokovic has been quizzed for hours about his visa status and exemption evidence in a room in Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and is still awaiting a decision. He has not spoken about his vaccination status, but last year he said he was “opposed to vaccination”.
Australia’s border force had sought clarification from the Victorian state government about his visa application, the Melbourne-based Age newspaper reports.
But state government Minister Jaala Pulford tweeted that Djokovic’s application would not be supported. Visa approvals were a matter for the federal government, she added.
Meanwhile, the player’s father, Srdjan Djokovic said his son was being held in a room guarded by police.
“I have no idea what’s going on, they’re holding my son captive for five hours.
“This is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world. If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street” Novak’s father said in a statement released to the media.
Djokovic’s coach and fellow Grand Slam champion Goran Ivanisevic posted a photo of himself on Instagram from a room in Melbourne, along with the caption: “Not the most usual trip Down Under.”
Earlier, Australia’s prime minister said Novak Djokovic would be refused entry to the country unless he provided evidence that he could not be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Scott Morrison said the tennis player “could be on the next plane home” if the proof was insufficient.
The tournament’s organizers say the defending champion has not been given special treatment, but the decision has infuriated many Australians. Australia is seeing tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world’s strictest restrictions.
Scott Morrison said Novak Djokovic would be required to present evidence upon arrival that he has a genuine medical exemption from vaccination.
The Australian Open begins on January 17 in Melbourne.
The tournament’s chief executive, Craig Tiley, said 26 athletes had applied for medical exemptions. “A handful” had been granted, he said, under guidelines set by federal regulators.
“We made it extra difficult for anyone applying for an application to ensure it was the right process and to make sure the medical experts deal with it independently,” he told Channel 9.
More than 90% of Australia’s over-16 population is fully vaccinated, but some people still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current measures.
Many Australians had previously accused the government of allowing the rich and famous to do as they please while ordinary people remained separated from sick and dying loved ones.
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