Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government yesterday revoked his visa for a second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the world No. 1 would be allowed to compete in the Australian Open, despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19.
Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said that he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old’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.
Three hours later, Djokovic’s lawyers began their appeal against the visa cancelation in an after-hours hearing at the Australian Federal Circuit and Family Court.
The same judge, Anthony Kelly, ruled in favor of Djokovic earlier this week on procedural grounds after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.
Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood, told Kelly he hoped that an appeal would be heard tomorrow and that Djokovic would have his visa returned in time for him to play on Monday.
Djokovic was to remain free last night, but would effectively return to immigration detention when he meets with Australian Border Force officials at 8am today.
He was to spend the morning at his lawyers’ offices under Border Force guard and return to hotel detention this afternoon.
Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the nation, although that might be waived, depending on the circumstances.
Hawke said that he canceled 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 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Djokovic’s main ground of appeal against Hawke’s decision was that it was not based on the health risk that the tennis champion might pose by not being vaccinated, but on how he might be perceived by anti-vaccine protesters.
“The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vaxx sentiment in the event that he’s present,” Wood said.
Hawke’s reasons do not take into account the potential impact on anti-vaccine protesters of Djokovic being forcibly removed, Wood said.
“The minister gives no consideration whatsoever to what effect that may have on anti-vax sentiment and indeed on public order,” Wood said. “That seems patently irrational.”
Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation.
The whole episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and particularly in Victoria state, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is a vaccination rate among adults of more than 90 percent.
Australia is facing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The nation yesterday reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state.
Although many infected people are not getting as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It is also causing disruptions to workplaces and supply chains.
“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. “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. Djokovic is not inoculated and had sought a medical exemption on the grounds that he had contracted COVID-19 last month.
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 canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on Wednesday last week.
Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention facility before Kelly on Monday overturned that decision.
“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “Just want it obviously to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now — not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”
English cyclist Matt Walls was on Sunday involved in a horror crash at the Commonwealth Games when he was catapulted over the barriers and into the crowds at the Lee Valley VeloPark. The Olympic omnium champion, competing in the men’s 15km scratch qualifiers at the London venue, received treatment for more than 40 minutes before being taken away by ambulance. Spectators were also hurt after Walls and his bike came over the top of the barriers on the high banking of a corner. Two other riders — the Isle of Man’s Matt Bostock and Canada’s Derek Gee — were also taken to hospital,
Erik ten Hag’s first competitive game as manager tomorrow should herald a fresh start for Manchester Untied, but familiar failings behind the scenes have made the Dutchman’s difficult job an almost impossible one. Ten Hag’s predecessor Ralf Rangnick signed off from his miserable caretaker spell last season by stating that the United squad needed “open heart surgery” and up to 10 new players after laboring to a sixth-placed finish in the English Premier League. So far, only three new faces have arrived at Old Trafford — Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen. The United squad is arguably weaker than last season, with
RUSTY: Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams lost the first singles match she has played since losing to Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 49 weeks ago in Chicago Taiwan’s Tseng Chun-hsin on Monday defeated Nick Chappell of the US 6-4, 6-4 at the Los Cabos Open in Mexico, his third victory on the ATP Tour this season. The 20-year-old won 84 percent of points on his first serve and did not face a break point to advance after 1 hour, 31 minutes. The Taiwanese, who earlier this season lifted ATP Challenger Tour trophies in Bengaluru, India, and Murcia, Spain, before he made his debut at the French Open, next faces reigning champion Cameron Norris of Britain. In Washington, three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray of Britain crashed out in the opening
NATIONAL HEROES: The victory put an end to England’s 56-year drought without a major tournament win, with Queen Elizabeth II calling the Lionesses ‘an inspiration’ England manager Sarina Wiegman on Sunday said “the world will change” for her players after the Lionesses won the UEFA Women’s Euro with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Germany at a sold-out Wembley. In front of a record crowd of 87,192 for any match in the history of the European Championships, Chloe Kelly prodded home the winner in the 110th minute to deliver England women’s first major tournament win. “The world will change, we know that,” said Wiegman, whose post-match news conference was interrupted by the England squad singing “football’s coming home.” “We change society and that’s what we want, that’s so much