MELBOURNE – Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has lost a visa revoked court and will not defend the title at the Australian Open, which begins Monday. The first player in the world was disappointed by the verdict, but he complied with it and left Australia today. Three federal court judges in Melbourne ruled against him unanimously. Djokovic is now facing a three-year ban on entering the country.
Djokovic said in a statement that he needed time to rest to recover from recent weeks. He commented only briefly on the case. “I am extremely disappointed that the court rejected my request to reconsider the Secretary of Immigration’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and attend the Australian Open. I respect the court’s decision and will cooperate with the authorities when leaving the country.” said the 34-year-old, who then flew out of Melbourne just hours after the verdict was announced. According to Australian media, he was at Melbourne Airport late Sunday night and left Australia for Dubai at 22:51 local time. His departure from the country was then confirmed by Minister Hawke.
Djokovic, who wanted to run for a record 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, is opposed to coronavirus vaccination and received an Australian visa under an exemption from compulsory covide-19. His application has been reviewed by the Victoria State Commission and the Australian Tennis Association, but government regulations vary. Upon his arrival, his visa was revoked at the airport. The court returned it to him due to procedural errors, but on Friday his immigration minister Alex Hawke revoked his visa again, explaining it in the public interest.
“I was uncomfortable that the focus has been on me in recent weeks and I hope that now everyone will focus on tennis and my beloved tournament,” said the nine-time Australian Open winner. “I wish all players, organizers, volunteers and fans all the best in the tournament,” said Djokovic. He also thanked his family, friends, fans and Serbs for their support.
Chief Justice James Allsop said the decision concerned whether the minister’s decision to withdraw the visa was irrational or legally disproportionate. “It is not part of the court’s function to decide on the merits or wisdom of a decision” Allsop said, adding that it was a question of examining whether the ministers’ move was in accordance with the law or not. The court did not give reasons for its decision in writing today, it will do so in the coming days.
Djokovic’s opening match was scheduled for Monday at the Australian Open. His place will be taken by the 150th player in the world, the Italian player Salvatore Caruso, whose opponent will be the Serb Miomir Kecmanovič.
Voráčová did not get to the Australian Open either
Djokovic’s case also deprived Czech tennis player Renata Voráčová of this year’s Australian Open. The Czech deblister also received an exemption from vaccination on the basis of overcoming covid. Unlike the Serb, she was checked at the airport, but after a week of free movement in Melbourne and one tournament played, she was detained, interrogated and lost her visa. She then quickly left Melbourne.