Novak Djokovic’s attempt to play at the Australian Open despite being unproven for COVID-19 went up in a high court on Saturday as the number 1-ranked tennis player appealed for his visa to be cancelled.
Djokovic was not seen on the online feed available to the public for a 15-minute procedural hearing, which began two days before he played his first match of 2022 at Melbourne Park.
Judge David O’Callaghan ruled that lawyers representing Djokovic and the government would be required to submit written arguments later on Saturday and set another hearing for Sunday morning.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke blocked the 34-year-old Serb’s visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at Melbourne airport last week. But on Monday, a judge reinstated it on procedural grounds, as Djokovic was not allowed to have a lawyer with him at the airport.
Djokovic remained free after the latest appeal began on Friday night, but the plan was for him to effectively return to immigration detention when he met with Australian Border Force officials on Saturday morning.
Returning to the country from exile from Australia could result in a three-year ban, although this may be waived depending on the circumstances.
Djokovic holds a record nine Australian Open titles, including three consecutive titles, as part of his Grand Slam total of 20 championships. He is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer by most one person in history.
Djokovic has admitted that his travel announcement was incorrect as it failed to indicate that he had been to several countries for two weeks before arriving in Australia. His supporters in Serbia are disappointed at the cancellation of their visas.
In a post on social media on Wednesday that constituted his most widely public comments on the entire episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error and certainly not intentional.” ” said.
In the same post, Djokovic said he proceeded with an interview and a photo shoot with a French newspaper in Serbia, despite learning that he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier . Djokovic is attempting to use a positive test he took on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to meet the vaccine requirement.
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Hawke said he revoked the visa “on the grounds of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is “strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the athlete’s lawyers, the main basis of appeal against Hawke’s decision was that it was not based on the health risk that Djokovic could not get vaccinated, but on how he might be perceived by anti-vaxxers. .
Morrison himself welcomed the pending deportation of Djokovic. The episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and particularly in the state of Victoria, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdown during the worst of the pandemic and has a vaccination rate among adults of over 90%.
Australia is facing a huge 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 the state of Victoria. Although many infected people are not getting as sick as they were in previous outbreaks, the increase is putting serious strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It is also causing disruption in 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 look forward to protecting the outcome of those sacrifices,” Morrison said. “This is what ministers are doing today in taking this action.”
The Australian Open requires vaccination for everyone, including players, their support teams and spectators. Djokovic has not been vaccinated.
His 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 revoked his visa upon landing in the country on 5 January.
Djokovic spent four nights at an immigration detention hotel before a judge overturned that decision. That decision allowed Djokovic to move freely around Australia and he has been practicing at Melbourne Park daily.
“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time Australian Open runner-up. “Just wish this got sorted out obviously. I think it would be good for everyone if it were. It seems to have dragged on for quite a long time – not good for tennis, for the Australian Open.” Not good, not good for Novak.”
According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order of play on day one is announced, No. 5 seed Rublev will move to Djokovic’s place in the bracket.
If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he is referred to as the “lucky loser” on the field – a player who loses in a qualifying tournament but is out of action before the competition. This leads to the main draw. has started.
And if Djokovic plays in one match – or more – and then is told that he can no longer participate in it …