Novak Djokovic will be depoted from Australia after failing to overturn the decision to cancel his visa.
The unanimous decision from three judges was confirmed by Chief Justice James Allsop at an appeal hearing at the Federal Court of Australia on Sunday (15 January).
The verdict means the nine-time champion will not be defending his title at the Australian Open, which kicks off on Monday, and is now banned from entering Australia for three years – although this can still be waived.
The world number one’s legal team have been preparing his case following the decision of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday (14 January) to cancel his visa for a second time on the grounds of “health and good order”.
Just before 6pm (7am UK time) on Friday, Hawke released a statement, saying: “Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act 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.
“This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
“In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.
“The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Djokovic appealed against the decision on the grounds that it was both affected by jurisdictional error and irrational.
What has Djokovic said?
Djokovic had the option of trying to take the legal fight further but said in a statement he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, and he would cooperate with the deportation.
He said: “I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s court hearing. 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.
“Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”
The three judges deliberated for a little over two hours before Chief Justice Allsop delivered the verdict just before 6pm in Melbourne, having heard submissions from both parties earlier in the day.
Why was Djokovic’s visa cancelled?
Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on 5 January after being granted an exemption through Tennis Australia from the country’s strict entry rules regarding Covid-19 vaccination on the grounds he had been recently infected with the virus.
However, he was stopped by the Australian Border Force and questioned through the night before being informed that his visa had been cancelled, and was taken to a detention hotel.
The tennis star appealed the decision and five days later a judge ruled in his favour, seemingly freeing him up to play in the Australian Open, which kicks off on Monday.
But his hopes of staying in the country faded over the week following revelations about his conduct, after he admitted to breaking self-isolation rules in December after testing positive for Covid-19.
Djokovic was photographed at events on the following two days and issued a statement earlier this week admitting he took part in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe at his tennis centre in Belgrade, despite knowing he had the virus. He said his attendance was an “error of judgement” and admitted he “should have rescheduled” his commitments.
The tennis ace, who is unvaccinated against Covid-19, also admitted to making a false declaration on his travel form before entering Australia, where he was hoping to defend his Australian Open title. Recent reports suggest the 34-year-old had travelled to Serbia and then to Spain prior to the trip.
Djokovic blamed the mistake regarding his recent travel history on his agent, after the form stated he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in the country.
It emerged on Friday (14 January) that Hawke based his decision to re-cancel his visa not on the validity or otherwise of Djokovic’s medical exemption, but on the potential for his continued presence in the country to stoke anti-vaccination sentiments and a threat to public order.
Hawke cited the tennis star’s status as a “high profile unvaccinated individual, who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against Covid-19” and said he had “publicly expressed anti-vaccination sentiment”.
The immigration minister said he believed that not cancelling his visa could encourage Australians not to take the vaccine, increasing pressure on the health service.
He said: “I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community.”
Hawke gave significant weight to Djokovic’s admission that he attended an interview with L’Equipe last month, despite knowing he had tested positive for Covid-19, and argued that Australians may follow suit.
He added: “I have also given consideration to the fact that Mr Djokovic has, in the past, shown an apparent disregard for the need to isolate following the receipt of a positive Covid-19 test result.”
Djokovic’s release from detention on Monday (10 January) resulted in police pepper-spraying his supporters and Hawke cited the possibility of civil unrest, although his lawyers will argue on Sunday that the same could result from his deportation.
The minister also dismissed Djokovic’s arguments that the cancellation of his visa would either be seen as politically motivated or jeopardise the viability of the country hosting the Australian Open.
There has been strong criticism of the way the Australian Government has handled the situation, but public opinion has been firmly in favour of Djokovic being sent home.
The situation has also sparked frustration among other players after the saga has overshadowed the Australian Open.
Speaking at a pre-tournament news conference, long-time rival Rafa Nadal said: "Honestly, I’m a little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis.
"It’s very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt. But there is no one player in history that’s more important than an event.
"Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, OK. If he’s not playing, Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him."
"Everyone chooses his road. I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I do not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks."
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