Djokovic back in detention, continues to fight for expulsion

Novak Djokovic was back in immigration jail on 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 is scheduled for Sunday, a day before the men’s No. 1 ranked tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion was to begin his title defense at this year’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Djokovic and his lawyers had a morning meeting with immigration officials, and in the middle of the afternoon, Australian media reported that the tennis star had been detained. Television footage showed the 34-year-old Serb wearing a face mask as he sat in a vehicle near a hotel in immigration jail.

Defending champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic gestures during a training session at Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday 13 January 2022.

Defending champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic gestures during a training session at Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday 13 January 2022.
(AP Photo / Mark Baker)


He spent four nights detained at a hotel near Melbourne city center before being released last Monday when he won a lawsuit for procedural reasons against his first visa cancellation.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday blocked the visa, which was initially revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on 5 January.

Expulsion from Australia could lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although this may be waived depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic has admitted that his travel statement was incorrect because it did not show that he had been to several countries in the two-week period prior to his arrival in Australia.

But that was not why Hawke decided it was in the public interest to deport Djokovic.

Djokovic’s lawyers filed documents in court revealing that Hawke had stated that the tennis star “is perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment.”


Australia has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world.

But the minister said Djokovic’s presence in Australia could pose a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “could be counterproductive to efforts to vaccinate others in Australia.”

The Ministry of Health stated that Djokovic had a “low” risk of transmitting COVID-19 and a “very low” risk of transmitting the disease at the Australian Open. “

The minister quoted comments made by Djokovic in April 2020 that he was “opposed to vaccination” and would not want to be forced by anyone to take a vaccine to compete.

Djokovic’s lawyers argued that the minister had not cited any evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could “promote an anti-vaccination mood.”

Hundreds of activists held a peaceful rally outside the Melbourne Park complex, which hosts the Australian Open, and planned another for Monday.

“We’re at Rod Laver Arena to support Novak. He’s won nine (Australian Open) titles here. Hopefully this will be No. 10 – if he can get out of quarantine and get his visa back,” Harrison McLean, one of said the organizers of the convention. “We are a peaceful movement, here to raise awareness and support everyone’s freedom of choice.”

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates victory in the third set during his quarter-final match against Germany's Alexander Zverev.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates victory in the third set during his quarter-final match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
(REUTERS / Asanka Brendon Ratnayake / File image)


On Saturday, Federal President James Allsop announced that he would hear the case with Justices David O’Callaghan and Anthony Besanko.

The decision that three judges should consider the appeal instead of a single judge lifts the significance of the case from the perspective of the judiciary and means that any verdict will be less likely to be appealed.

Djokovic, who has won the last three Australian Open titles, will be allowed to leave the hotel jail on Sunday to visit his lawyers’ offices for the video court hearing.

He is seeking a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title. He is currently associated with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for most of a man in history.

In a social media post Wednesday that made up his most comprehensive public commentary to date on the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong field on his travel document, calling it “a human error and certainly not deliberate”.

In the same post, Djokovic said he went ahead with an interview and a photoshoot with a French newspaper in Serbia, even though he knew he had tested positive for COVID-19. Djokovic has tried to use what he says was a positive test taken on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to avoid the vaccine requirement on the grounds that he already had COVID-19.

In canceling Djokovic’s visa, Hawke said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his match against Croatian Marin Cilic.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his match against Croatian Marin Cilic.
(REUTERS / Susana Vera)


The episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and especially in the state of Victoria, where locals went through more than 260 days of lockdowns during the worst pandemic.

Australia is facing a massive increase 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 do not get as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the increase still puts serious strain on the health system and disrupts the supply chains.

Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia have been appalled by the visa cancellations. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” and “abusing” Djokovic and asked if Morrison’s government is just trying to score political points ahead of the upcoming election.

“Why did you not return him immediately, or tell him it was impossible to get a visa?” Vucic asked the Australian authorities in an address on social media. “Why are you harassing him and why are you abusing not only him but his family and an entire nation that is free and proud.”


Everyone at the Australian Open must be vaccinated.

According to the Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order of play for day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev will move into Djokovic’s place in brackets.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he will be replaced in the field by a so-called “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but joins the main draw due to another player’s exit before the competition. . has started.

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