Fri | Jan 28, 2022

Djokovic faces deportation as Australia revokes visa again

Published:Friday | January 14, 2022 | 10:09 AM
Defending men's champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, on January 13, 2022. Tennis star Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday, January 14, he used his ministerial discretion to revoke the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds three days before the Australian Open is to begin. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No. 1-ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds — just three days before play begins at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic's lawyers were expected to appeal at the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which they already successfully did last week on procedural grounds after his visa was first cancelled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.

Deportation from Australia usually leads to a three-year ban on returning to the country.

That would make Djokovic 37 the next time he would be allowed to compete at the Australian Open.

Hawke said he cancelled the visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”

His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison and Hawke are part of a conservative government which prides itself on being tough on border control.

Morrison welcomed Djokovic's pending deportation, saying Australia had achieved one of the lowest pandemic death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. ... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said in a statement.

“This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”

Everyone at the Australian Open — including players, their support teams and spectators — is required to be vaccinated for the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Djokovic is not inoculated and had sought a medical exemption on the grounds that he had COVID-19 in December.

That exemption was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and cancelled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on January 5.

Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge on Monday overturned that decision.

That ruling allowed Djokovic to move freely around Australia and he has been practicing at Melbourne Park to prepare to play in a tournament he has won each of the past three years.

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