With Novak Djokovic unable to defend his Australian Open crown after losing a legal challenge, social media is divided over the treatment of the world's number one tennis player.
The "extremely disappointed" Serbian was deported from Australia on Sunday night after the full bench of the Federal Court decided in favour of Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke.
The Court dismissed Djokovic's appeal against Mr Hawke's decision to reject his visa for a second time, citing "health and good order grounds" due to his "well-known stance on vaccination".
The setback for the unvaccinated 20-time Grand Slam champion was applauded by British talk show host, Piers Morgan, who called him a "Covid rule cheat [and] immigration form liar".
Djokovic met minister and junior tennis players maskless day after infection
The tennis champion may have picked up the virus at a basketball match where he met with a player who later tested positive to COVID-19.Court documents revealed on Saturday that the World No. 1, who remains in detention in Melbourne, claims to have learnt of his infection on December 16.
Actress Mia Farrow, commenting before the second court hearing, agreed that Djokovic had been less than truthful, and had "knowingly exposed people" to coronavirus by attending events while infected.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed "the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe".
"I thank the Court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue," Mr Morrison said.
There was no shortage of criticism on social media of the federal government's handling of the Djokovic case from Labor politicians, past and present.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, while agreeing that Djokovic shouldn't have ever been issued with a visa, took to Twitter to accuse Mr Morrison of acting "like a hairy chested [John] Howard" and diverting attention from Australian hospitals struggling to cope with surging COVID-19 cases.
Astonishing twist looming in Djokovic visa war
There is an extraordinary twist looming in the Novak Djokovic visa fight ahead of the Australian Open, according to a 4BC host.Breen is among several journalists reporting that Djokovic will have his visa cancelled by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke today.
Most tennis identities adopted a more neutral or supportive tone, with former world number one Mats Wilander giving Djokovic "a lot of credit for trying" but taking the risk of travelling to Australia while knowing its strict policy on vaccination.
"He knew there might be the possibility that with the rules you have to be vaccinated," Wilander told Eurosport.
"His career is on the line and he might have to do something that he doesn't really want to do."
Former world number one doubles player Rennae Stubbs described the ruling as "a sad, sad day for tennis", while Australia's most successful active men's player Nick Kyrgios simply tweeted a facepalm emoji on hearing the news.
"This isn't right", tweeted US player John Isner, who shared the full statement from Djokovic, while his compatriot Mardy Fish — a former world number 7 — said he was being used "as a political pawn". France's Alize Cornet called on the Serbian to "be strong".
‘Lightning rod': the world reacts to Novak Djokovic's visa cancellation
"Why do you mistreat him, why do you harass him, as well as his family and a nation that is free and proud?" asked Serbia's president.After Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision focused attention on the world's No. 1's longstanding views on the vaccine and the pandemic, many of Djokovic's fellow Serbian citizens were critical of Australia.
Veteran tennis reporter Craig Gabriel observed that Djokovic had been quickly removed from Australian Open TV promos by Sunday night, while Racquet Magazine senior editor Ben Rothenberg described Djokovic's last seven Grand Slam tournaments — including his disqualification from the 2020 US Open — as "easily the wildest timeline in tennis history".
With Serbia calling the decision to deport Djokovic "scandalous", his many fans took to Twitter to give their support with the hashtag #WeStandWithNovak, declaring that "he's still a champion".
But the wittiest supporter on Twitter may have been @jjjovvv who shared an image of the 34-year-old playing "against the world", including someone holding an 'Australia closed' sign, with Djokovic scrambling with his outstretched racquet on the other side of the net.
With six-time Australian Open winner Roger Federer also absent from Melbourne — due to injury — it will be the first time since 1999 that neither Federer nor Djokovic are playing in the main draw of the first Grand Slam of the year.
It will give Spain's Rafael Nadal — the number six seed — a golden chance to win only his second Australian Open to go past his fellow veterans on the all-time list by claiming his 21st Grand Slam title.