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.
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.
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.
Djokovic’s lawyers were expected to appeal at the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which they already successfully did last week on procedural grounds after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.
A hearing was scheduled for Friday night.
Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
Hawke said he canceled the visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation. The whole episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and particularly in Victoria state, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is a vaccination rate among adults of more than 90%.
EXPLAINER: How will Australian visa ruling impact Djokovic?
Australia is currently facing a massive surge in virus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state. Although many infected people aren’t getting as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It’s also causing disruptions to workplaces and supply chains.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. ... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said in a statement. “This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”
Everyone at the Australian Open — including players, their support teams and spectators — is required to be vaccinated for the illness caused by the coronavirus. Djokovic is not inoculated and had sought a medical exemption on the grounds that he had COVID-19 in December.
TIMELINE: Novak Djokovic's bid to compete at Australian Open
The Australian government on Friday revoked tennis star Novak Djokovic's visa for a second time, just three days before the Australian Open begins. Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appeal the cancellation in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, as they successfully did the first time. Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone said that Djokovic’s lawyers face an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play next week. His exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement to compete was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, which apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.
That exemption was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on Jan. 5.
Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge on Monday overturned that decision. That ruling allowed Djokovic to move freely around Australia and he has been practicing at Melbourne Park daily to prepare to play in a tournament he has won each of the past three years.
He had a practice session originally scheduled for mid-afternoon Friday at Rod Laver Arena, the tournament’s main stadium, but pushed that to the morning and was finished several hours before Hawke’s decision was announced in the early evening.
Video: Rules are rules: Australia PM on Djokovic visa (Reuters)
After the visa cancellation from Hawke, media started gathering outside the building where Djokovic reportedly was meeting with his lawyers.
An Australian Open spokeswoman said tournament organizers did not have any immediate comment on the latest development in Djokovic's situation, which has overshadowed all other story lines heading into the year's first Grand Slam event.
Serbs dismayed as Djokovic's visa again revoked in Australia
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Novak Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia were dismayed Friday after waking up to the news that the top-ranked tennis player again faces deportation from Australia after his visa was revoked for a second time. Australia’s immigration minister used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds — only three days before play begins at the Australian Open. Djokovic is the defending champion at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament and has won a record nine of his 20 major titles at Melbourne Park.
Tennis Australia announced that nine players would hold pre-tournament news conferences Saturday, and Djokovic’s name was not on the list.
With his legal situation still in limbo, Djokovic was placed in the tournament bracket in Thursday's draw, slated to face Miomir Kecmanovic in an all-Serbian matchup in the first round.
According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to pull out of the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Rublev would move into Djokovic’s spot in the bracket and face Kecmanovic.
If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he would be replaced in the field by what’s known as a “lucky loser” — a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but gets into the main draw because of another player’s exit before competition has started.
And if Djokovic plays in a match — or more — and then is told he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent would simply advance to the following round and there would be no replacement.
Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers face an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play next week.
Speaking hours before Hawke’s decision was announced, Bone said: “If you left it any later than he has done now, I think from a strategic standpoint, he’s really hamstringing Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of what sort of options or remedies he could obtain.”
Djokovic’s lawyers would need to go before a duty judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court, or a higher judge of the Federal Court, to get two urgent orders. One order would be an injunction preventing his deportation, such as what he won in court last week.
The second would force Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.
“That second order is almost not precedented,” Bone said. “Very rarely do the courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.
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John Pye And Rod Mcguirk , The Associated Press
Djokovic's deportation exposes Australian border debate .
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Weary after two years of some of the harshest COVID-19 border restrictions in the world, many Australians wanted Novak Djokovic kicked out of their country for traveling to a tennis tournament in their country without being vaccinated. But the backdrop to the government's tough line on the defending Australian Open champion — and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s description of the expulsion as a “decision to keep our borders strong” — dates to nearly a decade ago. It also shines a light on Australia's complicated, and strongly criticized, immigration and border policies.