Novak Djokovic is expected to finally learn tonight (Saturday night UK) whether or not he will be allowed to play the Australian Open. The Serbian is the subject of a federal court hearing and faces being deported from Australia after his visa was cancelled for the second time.
Djokovic already had his visa revoked after Australian Border Force officials raised questions over the evidence supplied by the No 1 male tennis player in the world to receive an exemption from Covid vaccination.
The 34-year-old’s argument to be exempt from vaccination was that he tested positive for COVID-19 in December.
He was detained for four days at an immigration hotel in Melbourne before his release was ordered after Judge Anthony Kelly after an all-day hearing.
Judge Kelly reinstated Djokovic’s visa only for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to exercise his personal powers to cancel it, arguing that the 20-time Grand Slam champion is a threat to “the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.
Hawke arrived at his decision not because of Djokovic’s medical exemption but because he believes his presence in Australia could spark an anti-vaccination reaction.
He said that the tennis icon’s status as an unvaccinated individual “who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against Covid-19” may foster anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia.
Djokovic’s legal team will once again protest that reasoning, and the decision, in a hearing scheduled to begin at 9.30am local time, which is 10.30pm tonight (Saturday January 15) in the UK.
The defending Australian Open champion is hoping for a quick resolution given he is pencilled in to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round on Monday.
The player’s lawyers have called Mr Hawke’s decision “patently irrational” and are looking to Justice David O’Callaghan to reverse it just as Judge Kelly did.
If the government wins its case, however, then Djokovic will not be allowed to defend his title in Melbourne and will instead be deported from Australia.
After a few days of freedom, Djokovic returned to the immigration detention hotel on Saturday ahead of his hearing.
“Why do you harass him, why do you mistreat him, as well as his family and [a] nation that is free and proud?
“A president of a small country has appeared who has the courage to say that to one great prime minister of a large country — I can because I’m telling the truth and you know I’m telling the truth.”
While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared: “I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. Together we have achieved one the of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccinations, in the world.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.”