Djokovic free but Australia deportation threat still looms

  • Australian minister considers cancellation of visa for Djokovic
  • Leaders of Serbia and Australia talk on the phone
  • For his rival Nadal, the court decision is the “fairest decision”
  • Australian Kyrgios “embarrassed” by treatment of Serbs

MELBOURNE, Jan.11 (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic swapped one court for another on Tuesday, hitting a few practice shots at Melbourne Park as he warms up to try to win a 21st major tennis tournament at the Open d ‘Australia next week.

A week after arriving in Australia, Djokovic finally reached central court thanks to Monday’s court ruling overturning the federal government’s earlier decision to cancel his visa.

However, the world number one is still in danger of being detained a second time by the federal government and deported. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s office said he was still considering using his discretion to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

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“In accordance with due process, Minister Hawke will give the matter careful consideration,” a spokesperson said in an email. “As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further.”

Australia has a policy prohibiting entry to non-citizens or non-residents unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He allows medical exemptions, but the government argued that the unvaccinated Djokovic did not provide adequate justification for an exemption.

The court ruled that Djokovic had been treated unfairly by border force officers upon his arrival and ordered the cancellation of his visa canceled. However, he did not say whether his exemption – based on the fact that Djokovic contracted COVID-19 last month – was valid.

Djokovic’s plight has gained international attention, creating a political feud between Canberra and Belgrade and fueling heated debates over mandatory vaccination policies against COVID-19.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office said it spoke with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Monday and “explained our non-discriminatory border policy.” Serbian media said Brnabic stressed the importance for Djokovic to be able to prepare for the tournament. Both said they were in favor of keeping in touch on the matter.

Djokovic, who expressed his gratitude to the judge and his determination to compete in the first major of the year in a Twitter post late Monday, did not publicly address the situation on Tuesday.

He was caught on camera by local media helicopters practicing at Rod Laver Arena, amid unusually tight security at Melbourne Park.

John Alexander, Morrison’s Liberal Party member and former professional tennis player, said a new decision to expel Djokovic “would diminish” the status of the Australian Open.

“We were previously the poor cousin of the four events,” he said. “We have a lot for us to do, but we have to treat it with care.”

ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis, applauded the court’s ruling, saying the dispute was “damaging on all fronts, including to Novak’s well-being and his preparation for the Australian Open “.

DECISION OF THE COURT

A woman places a “Free Hugs” sign on a banner by Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic outside the Park Hotel, where the star athlete is believed to be held while in Australia, in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 7, 2022. REUTERS / Sandra Sanders

Djokovic was arrested by border officials when he landed at Melbourne airport on Wednesday evening. His visa was canceled because he failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet requirements for entry into Australia, border officials said.

However, in overturning that decision, Judge Anthony Kelly criticized the hour-long airport interview and said the player had not had enough time to contact lawyers and tennis officials to discuss the matter. his predicament.

Djokovic had obtained a medical exemption from the Victoria state government based on evidence he contracted COVID-19 last month – the second time he was infected. The player, who has long opposed compulsory vaccination, confirmed during the interview that he was not vaccinated.

Some Australian media have reported that the Australian Border Force is investigating potential discrepancies in the traveler form submitted by Djokovic and his whereabouts in the days leading up to his arrival in Australia.

In the document submitted to the court, Djokovic checked “no” when asked if he had been abroad in the previous 14 days. However, social media posts appeared to show it in Belgrade on Christmas Day and in Spain on December 31.

The Australian Border Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Attorneys for Djokovic at Hall & Wilcox declined to comment.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The Australian Open begins on January 17th. Djokovic has won the tournament, one of four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, in the past three years and nine times in all.

Spain’s Rafa Nadal, who is tied in 20 majors with Djokovic and Switzerland’s Roger Federer, called the heavy preparation for the tournament a “circus” and said the “fairest decision” had been made.

Nick Kyrgios said that by supporting the vaccination he felt “embarrassed as an Aussie athlete to see what this guy has done for us and for the sport. I just don’t think the way we are handling him is correct “.

However, former US player-turned-expert Pam Shriver warned on Twitter that the controversy may not be over: “If he plays, the boos will be deafening.”

Public opinion in Australia, which is battling a wave of Omicron infections and where more than 90% of the adult population is doubly vaccinated, has largely opposed the player.

Resistance in Melbourne, home of the Open, was particularly noisy after the city experienced the longest cumulative lockdown in the world.

“We’ve had to go through vaccination protocols and blockages for so long and he adapts and does pretty much what he loves because he’s the best tennis player in the world,” Keith told Reuters Moore, a Melbourne resident.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Jane Wardell; edited by Richard Pullin and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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