Novak Djokovic’s saga has come to an end. The world No. 1 won't compete in the Australian Open 2022. He has been deported from Australia and left the country this morning (January 16) after a full federal court rejected his challenge to the decision of Australian immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to cancel the visa.
Novak Djokovic, who tested positive on December 16, first arrived in Australia on January 6, with a medical exemption approved by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government, but Border Force rejected his exemption after six hours of interrogation, as the Federal Government doesn't consider a recent Covid-19 infection as a valid reason for a medical exemption.
Djokovic’s lawyers, however, said they would appeal the decision. And after five days detained in a hotel for immigrants and refugees, Judge Anthony Kelly overturned the federal government’s decision considering that the Serbian couldn’t do anything to provide information to Border Force. But, Inmigration Minister Hawke still had power to cancel his visa, which he executed on Friday.
Australian Open 2022: Novak Djokovic won’t defend his title
After he was released and went to train at Melbourne Park, new inconsistencies in his visa application were made public. Djokovic didn’t declare a prior travel to Spain and he broke health and safety protocols in Serbia while having Covid-19, including an interview (while wearing a mask) with L’Equipe.
Minister Hawke said on Friday that Novak Djokovic’s ongoing presence in Australia may lead to “increase in anti-vaccination sentiment” or even “civil unrest” as part of the reason for canceling his visa, according to court filings. However, Djokovic’s lawyers said that the government could have no way of knowing what effect the star’s deportation would have on anti-vaxxers.
It’s true that Djokovic hasn’t expressed an anti-vaxx stance, but he has been very vocal about his skepticism and his opposition to vaccine mandates. This is going to be the first time that Djokovic misses the Australian Open, since his first appearance in 2005. Djokovic was set to play for his 21st Grand Slam, which would be an all-time men’s tennis record, just as his 10th Australian Open title.
What did Djokovic say?
In a statement, per The Guardian, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” with the ruling, acknowledging it meant he “cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open”.
“I respect the court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he said. “I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.”
What did the ATP say?
(Transcript via ATPtour.com)
"Today's decision to uphold Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events. Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation.
Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport’s greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon."