Tennis player Novak Djokovic will not be taking part in the Australian Open when it begins on Monday in Melbourne and has instead left the country after losing his deportation appeal.
The Serbian tennis ace, who was to have started his bid to take home his 21st Grand Slam title, the most ever to be won, has sparred with Australian authorities over whether his vaccine status would prohibit him from entering the country to play in the Open since January 5.
On Sunday, Australia’s Full Federal Court unanimously threw out his appeal against deportation, putting an end to the visa saga that has resulted in him not only being among the world’s top tennis players but also among the most well-known anti-vaxxers.
In response to the decision, Djokovic, who will now take the time to rest and recuperate, said he accepted the court’s verdict, but added that he felt upset.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of [Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s] decision to cancel my visa,” he wrote in a brief statement on Sunday.
Timeline to deportation
In response to the coronavirus crisis, Australia imposed strict measures, including requiring full vaccination for people entering the country from overseas, excluding people with a medical exemption.
At the end of December, Djokovic received such an exemption from Tennis Australia so he could enter the country without being vaccinated, and without having to quarantine, on the grounds that he had just recovered from an infection. At the start of this year, he received a Border Travel Permit from the government of the State of Victoria, where Melbourne is located.
He arrived in the city on 5 January, just before midnight, but his visa was cancelled in the early hours of 6 January, when he was placed in detention. This decision was overruled on 10 January, and the tennis star was released.
However, on 14 January, Hawke invoked his personal power to cancel Djokovic’s visa a second time. One day later, Djokovic was again detained as a preliminary hearing began.
On Friday, Djokovic’s entry visa was cancelled for a second time by Australian government officials, “on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.” On Sunday, the federal court dismissed his appeal.
“I welcome today’s unanimous decision by the Full Federal Court of Australia, upholding my decision to exercise my power under the Migration Act to cancel Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa in the public interest,” Hawke said in a statement on Sunday.
“I can confirm that Mr Djokovic has now departed Australia.”
The decision was not received in the same way by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who had already spoken out in support for the tennis player, said on Sunday that Australian authorities had “humiliated themselves” by deciding to expel Djokovic.
“They think that with these ten days of mistreatment, they have humiliated Djokovic,” the Serbian president told local media. “They humiliated themselves, Djokovic can come back to his country with his head held high and look everyone straight in the eye.”
For his part, the tennis player said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus of the past weeks has been on him.
“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,” he said in his statement.