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Novak Djokovic Can Still Face Deportation Again, May Miss Australia Open: Here’s Why
Novak Djokovic’s lawyers say that since he recently recovered from COVID-19, he didn’t need to be inoculated under Australia’s rules.
MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic won a court battle Monday to stay in Australia to contest the Australian Open after his exemption from strict coronavirus vaccination rules was questioned, but the drama might not be finished, with the government threatening to cancel his visa a second time and deport him.
Hours later, the tennis star hit the court and was training, his brother told reporters. Djokovic himself tweeted that he was still planning to compete.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstated the Djokovic’s visa, which was revoked after his arrival last week because officials said he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to a rule that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated. Djokovic’s lawyers say that since he recently recovered from COVID-19, he didn’t need to be inoculated under Australia’s rules.
The judge ruled the No. 1 player had not been given enough time to speak to his lawyers before the decision was made and ordered the government to release him within 30 minutes from a Melbourne quarantine hotel where he has spent the last four nights.
But government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge that the immigration minister “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation.”
That would mean that the nine-time Australian Open winner and defending champion could again face deportation and could miss the tournament, which starts on Jan. 17. It could also bar him from the country for three years.
The back and forth has gripped the world and caused a furor in Australia, where many initially decried the news that Djokovic, who has been a vocal skeptic of vaccines, had received an exemption to strict rules to compete in Melbourne. Many felt the star, who court documents say is not innoculated against COVID-19, was being given special treatment since Australians who aren’t vaccinated face tough travel and quarantine restrictions.
But when border police then blocked him on arrival, others cried foul, saying he was being scapegoated by an Australian government facing criticism for its recent handling of the pandemic.
Speaking with television network Prva in Belgrade, Serbia, the tennis star’s brother, Djordje Djokovic, described the judge’s ruling as a “great defeat for Australian authorities.”
“This is definitely politics, all this was politics,” he added.
He said at one point Monday that the family was hearing that his brother might still be detained, though he gave no details. Later, he confirmed that the tennis player was not in detention.
“Novak is free. He was at the tennis court moments ago. He is training,” he said.
The star himself tweeted out a photo of him standing on a court at the arena where the tournament is hosted.
“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen,” he said in the post.
The 34-year-old Djokovic boarded a plane for Australia last week, after receiving an exemption from vaccination rules from Victoria state authorities and Australian Open organizers. But upon arrival, federal border officials refused to let him in, saying the exemption was not valid.
(With Inputs From AP)