Top-ranked Novak Djokovic spends religious day in detention
Regardless of who made an error on the visa or the vaccination waiver or whatever, the reality Friday for tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic was spending one of his important religious holidays in an Australian detention hotel working on his challenge against deportation. Djokovic has been receiving calls from Serbia, including from his parents and the president, hoping to boost his spirits. A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne sought permission from immigration authorities to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — As Novak Djokovic awaits a final decision on whether his visa will be revoked, all eyes have turned to Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. He has to decide whether he will overturn the decision of a federal judge, who ruled Djokovic’s visa should be reinstated because he was unfairly treated by officials at the border. Hawke has discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa but has taken longer than expected to reach a decision which has legal, political, sporting and diplomatic consequences.
Whatever Hawke decides, it’s unlikely to be the last word. Djokovic’s lawyers are expected immediately to seek an injunction if the decision goes against the top-ranked tennis player. That would send the matter back to the Federal Court, and if the court can’t sit Friday it won’t be heard until next week when the Australian Open already is underway.
Will he stay or will he go? Djokovic's hearing looms large
After four nights in an Australian immigration detention hotel, Novak Djokovic will get his day in court Monday in a deportation case that has polarized opinions and elicited heartfelt support for the top-ranked tennis star in his native Serbia. Djokovic had his visa canceled after arriving at Melbourne airport last week when Australian border officials ruled that he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. His lawyers have since filed court papers in his challenge against deportation from Australia that show Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 last month and recovered.
Despite the cloud hanging over Djokovic’s ability to compete, Australian Open organizers included the top seed in the draw. He is slated to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, who is ranked world No. 78., in the opening round next week.
If Djokovic’s visa is revoked, Djokovic might have to return to a detention facility while legal proceedings play out.
If Djokovic is allowed to remain, he will attempt to win a 10th Australian Open singles title and a record 21st Grand Slam title. But if his visa is revoked and his legal challenge fails, he will deported and might not be able to reapply for an Australian visa for three years. Djokovic is 34 and a three-year hiatus might mean he won’t have another chance to win the Australian title.
WHAT MUST THE MINISTER CONSIDER?
Djokovic in Australian Open draw as visa saga continues
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic remained in limbo even after he was included in the draw for the Australian Open on Thursday, with the tennis star still awaiting a government decision on whether to deport him for not being vaccinated for COVID-19. Despite the cloud hanging over Djokovic’s ability to compete, Australian Open organizers included the top seed in the draw. He is slated to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, who is ranked world No. 78., in the opening round next week. No.
The immigration minister has considerable discretion under Australia’s Migration Act to revoke visas. He can do so on public health grounds, character grounds and for a variety of other reasons.
While deliberating on the Djokovic case, Hawke is said to have separated his office from other parts of the government to avoid any impression of political interference.
Hawke’s office will consider the original decision to grant Djokovic a visa and an exemption on medical grounds from the rule that all travelers arriving in Australia must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
It will also likely consider whether Djokovic made misstatements on his incoming passenger card when he indicated he hadn’t traveled in 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia. It is now known he traveled to Spain.
Djokovic also attended public events and gave an interview to a French newspaper after his positive test. The Serbian and Spanish governments are reported to be investigating those issues.
Double-fault: Visa revoked again, Djokovic faces deportation
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No. 1-ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds — just three days before play begins at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
WHAT DOES DJOKOVIC SAY?
Video: Djokovic awaits Australia exemption court hearing (The Canadian Press)
Recent revelations of his travels and giving an interview after testing positive led to calls for Djokovic to be more forthcoming. British former world No. 1 Andy Murray welcomed Djokovic’s win in court but agreed he had questions to resolve.
"There are still a few questions that need to be answered about the isolation and ... I’m sure we’ll hear from him in the next few days,” Murray said.
Djokovic addressed those questions in a lengthy Instagram post on Wednesday, when he blamed “human error” by his support team for failing to declare that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia.
He said he went ahead with the interview “as I did not want to let the journalist down” but conceded he might have made an error of judgement.
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY?
No definitive polls have been conducted to determine how Australians feel about Djokovic and his treatment by the government. But vox pops and self-selecting polls on some news websites suggest public support for Djokovic has ebbed and flowed since his visa was first canceled.
Report: Djokovic back in immigration detention in Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic was reported to be back in immigration detention Saturday after his legal challenge to avoid being deported from Australia for being unvaccinated for COVID-19 was moved to a higher court. A Federal Court hearing has been scheduled for Sunday, a day before the men’s No. 1-ranked tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion was due to begin his title defense at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year. Police closed down a lane behind the building where Djokovic’s lawyers are based and two vehicles exited the building mid-afternoon local time on Saturday.
The initial decision to grant the unvaccinated tennis star a medical exemption to play at the Australian Open was polarizing. Australians have faced almost two years of strict border controls during the pandemic, which have limited their ability to travel overseas and prevented those overseas from returning.
The decision to allow a prominent vaccine skeptic an exemption to pass through the border was not warmly welcomed in a country in which 91.3% of the eligible population is vaccinated.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova put it succinctly.
“The bottom line is sometimes your personal beliefs have to be trumped by what’s good for the greater good,” Navratilova said Thursday. “Quite frankly, you have two choices: get vaccinated or don’t go play.”
Public sympathy turned a little in Djokovic’s favor when he was held for four days in an immigration detention hotel. And when the Federal Circuit Court found in his favor, there was concern mishandling of the visa cancellation painted Australia in a bad light.
More recent revelations of Djokovic’s behavior after he tested positive might again have turned public opinion against him.
WHAT DO POLITICIANS SAY?
When news broke last week that Djokovic had been detained at the border and his visa canceled, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to embrace the decision.
TIMELINE: Djokovic's failed bid to play in Australian Open
Novak Djokovic’s attempt to play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19 came to an end when a court upheld a government minister's rejection of his visa. The unanimous ruling from three Federal Court judges in Melbourne on Sunday came the day before Djokovic was scheduled to begin his title defense at a Grand Slam tournament he’s won a record nine times. The Australian government twice canceled a visa held by the 34-year-old from Serbia and Djokovic’s lawyers appealed twice.
Morrison’s government had been under pressure as the omicron variant swept across Australia, and he sensed a political win in a decision that made him look tough on immigration. He has had less to say since the court overturned the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa, allowing the legal process to play out.
But Anthony Albanese, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has been scathing in his criticism of the government.
“This has been diabolical for Australia’s reputation, just in terms of our competence here and it is extraordinary that as we are speaking we still don’t know what the decision will be,” Albanese said. “The decision should have been made before he was granted a visa. Either he was eligible or he wasn’t.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was equally blunt.
“The vast majority of Australians ... didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or ... the king of Spain or the queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with," he said.
Djokovic “is still a child of God like the rest of us, isn’t he? So he has to abide by the laws.”
Steve Mcmorran, The Associated Press
Djokovic out, but vaccine debate stays in Australian Open .
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — To some, it seemed a cloud had been lifted from the Australian Open. To others, Novak Djokovic still was almost palpably present, the name on everyone's lips on the opening day of the first major tennis tournament of the year. Djokovic left Australia late Sunday when he failed in his legal challenge to overturn the cancellation of his visa due to his lack of a COVID-19 vaccination. His flight from Melbourne was touching down in Dubai early Monday just as the first matches of the tournament began. As the No. 1-ranked male player and the three-time defending champion, Djokovic would have been the marquee attraction of the tournament.