Novak Djokovic out of Australian Open, is deported
Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening after losing his final bid to avoid deportation and play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19. A court earlier unanimously dismissed the No. 1-ranked tennis player’s challenge to cancel his visa.
A masked Djokovic was photographed in an Melbourne airport lounge with two government officials in black uniforms. He left on an Emirates flight to Dubai, the same United Arab Emirates city he flew to Australia from.
Novak Djokovic said he was disappointed that a court on Sunday dismissed his challenge to a deportation order and accepted his hopes of playing at the Australian Open were dashed.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” his statement 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.”
“Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”
Novak Djokovic’s hopes of playing at the Australian Open were dashed Sunday after a court dismissed the top-ranked tennis star’s appeal against a deportation order.
Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds.
Novak Djokovic was in immigration detention after his legal challenge to avoid being deported from Australia for being unvaccinated for COVID-19 went to a higher court.
A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia, though it could be waived.
The minister canceled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia.”
Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled Jan. 6 at Melbourne’s airport hours after he arrived to compete in the first Grand Slam of the year.
A border official canceled his visa after deciding Djokovic didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.
The national federation that runs the tournament, Tennis Australia, said it respects the decision of the Federal Court. “We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all players the best of luck,” it said in a statement.
Djokovic’s dominance in Grand Slam play of late has been particularly impressive, winning four of the last seven major tournaments and finishing as the runner-up at two others. The only time he did not get at least to the final in that span was at the 2020 U.S. Open, where he was disqualified in the fourth round for hitting a ball that inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat after a game.
On Monday, Djokovic was supposed to play another man from Serbia, Miomir Kecmanovic, in the first round of the season’s opening Grand Slam tournament. Instead, Kecmanovic will face a so-called “lucky loser” — someone who loses in qualifying rounds but gets access to the main draw because someone else withdraws after the order of play for Day 1 was released.
About 90 minutes after the verdict in Djokovic’s challenge was delivered, tournament organizers announced that Salvatore Caruso, an Italian ranked No. 150, had replaced Djokovic in the draw and that the match had been moved to a smaller court in the day session.
Third-seeded Alexander Zverev’s opener against Daniel Altmaier was moved onto Rod Laver Arena.
Patrick Mouratoglou, an elite coach who has worked with Serena Williams, among other star players, said the “biggest loser of this mess is the tournament.”
Djokovic’s visa originally was canceled after his flight arrived in Melbourne just before midnight on Jan. 5, but that decision was overturned by a judge on procedural grounds last Monday. He spent four nights in immigration detention before the first court hearing, and he was confined to an immigration hotel again on Saturday while awaiting his legal challenge.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended Australia’s tough border policies since news first emerged 10 days ago that Djokovic was in detention, saying at the time that “rules are rules” and that nobody was above the law.
Morrison late Sunday issued a statement saying he welcomed the decision “to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe ... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
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