Novak Djokovic holds practice session while prime ministers of Australia and Serbia speak on phone about his disputed visa

MELBOURNE, Australia – Tennis star Novak Djokovic held a practice session at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, his second day in detention, focusing on his title defense at the Australian Open while facing the prospect of deportation because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The highest-ranked Serbian player hit the entertainment courts hours after winning a legal battle against the cancellation of his visa on Monday, based on procedural grounds. He returned on Tuesday for a closed-door practice with the doors locked and only his support team allowed into the Rod Laver Arena.

Aerial footage taken by Australian television networks from a helicopter showed the nine-time Australian Open winner back to work, less than a week before the start of the inaugural Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The video showed Djokovic hitting shots from behind the baseline, taking into account his coach’s comments and stretching alongside the pitch with a coach on a sunny but balmy summer afternoon.

Shortly after, organizers released the seeds for the Australian Open tournament and Djokovic was ranked No.1 in the men’s singles draw.

As he tries to catch up after spending four days confined to a migrant detention hotel, Djokovic is aware that he could again have his visa revoked.

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke plans to exercise his power to expel the tennis star under separate legislation, assessing a medical exemption that unvaccinated Djokovic relied on to travel to Melbourne and the information provided in the visa application.

The Australian Associated Press reported that the decision was not expected on Tuesday, after Hawke’s office issued a statement saying the case was still under “due process”.

The Australian and Serbian prime ministers discussed Djokovic’s precarious visa on Tuesday.

The deportation drama polarized opinions and garnered strong support for the 20-time Grand Slam winner in his native Serbia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabic agreed during their phone conversation to stay in touch regarding the 34-year-old’s disputed visa, Morrison’s office said.

“The Prime Minister explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morrison’s office said in a statement. “They both agreed to keep in touch on the matter.”

Brnabic called on Morrison to ensure the tennis star is treated with dignity, state broadcaster Radio Television Serbia reported.

“The [Serbian] The Prime Minister notably underlined the importance of the conditions of training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, given that Novak Djokovic has not been allowed to train the previous days, ” reported RTS.

Djokovic posted an image of himself and three of his team in Melbourne Park in the early hours of Tuesday on social media.

“I’m happy and grateful that the judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite everything that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete #AustralianOpen. I stay focused on this.” Djokovic tweeted. “I came here to play one of the most important events we have had in front of amazing fans.”

A border official canceled Djokovic’s visa at Melbourne airport on Thursday, hours after arriving in Australia to participate in the tournament.

A judge reinstated his visa and ordered Djokovic’s release on Monday, citing procedural errors made by border officials at the airport.

Djokovic had received a medical exemption from the state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer, from vaccination rules to participate because he had been infected with COVID-19 last month.

But the Australian Border Force refused to grant him an exemption from national vaccination rules for incoming non-citizens.

He said infection in the previous six months was only grounds for vaccine exemption in cases where the coronavirus has caused serious illness.

New questions were also asked about Djokovic’s request to enter the country after documents released by the Federal Circuit Court revealed that he told authorities he had not traveled in the 14 days. before his flight to Australia.

The Monte-Carlo-based Djokovic touched down in Melbourne just before midnight on Wednesday, answering “no” to the question about previous trips on her Australian travel declaration form.

But the reigning Australian Open champion was filmed playing tennis in the streets of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on December 25, and training in Spain on December 31 – both dates in the 14 day window.

The statement notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offense, and civil penalties are also available.

Djokovic told border officials that Tennis Australia completed the declaration on his behalf, but the officer who canceled his visa noted that the sports body would have facilitated this “on the basis of information provided by the visa holder”.

Since Djokovic’s visa was canceled, Czech tennis player Renata Voracova and an anonymous European tennis official have been expelled for similar reasons.

Morrison’s Tory government blamed the debacle on Tennis Australia, which ministers accuse players of misleading players about Australia’s vaccine requirements. But newspapers reported that Tennis Australia begged the Home Office to check the visa documents of Djokovic and other players before boarding the planes. The department did not.

Opposition Home Affairs Spokesperson Kristina Keneally blamed the confusion on the government’s lack of planning.

“It does incredible damage to Australia” if Djokovic is deported, Keneally told Seven Network TV, but “if he stays it causes incredible damage to our strict border laws and is a real insult to Australians who did the hardest work of containment and vaccination. ”

Keneally said the Djokovic saga made Australia “look like a joke” on the world stage.

Daniel Andrews, Prime Minister of the state of Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open, said the federal government had changed its border rules in recent months.

“When we talked about exemptions previously, you will recall Minister Hawke saying he expected if you weren’t double vaxx you weren’t coming into the country, playing tennis. or you do something else. “Said Andrews, who like Keneally is a member of the center-left Labor Party.

“It turned out that was not the position of the Commonwealth government and let in people who had not been doubly vaxxed,” Andrews added.

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