Melbourne Australia –
Novak Djokovic’s efforts to play in the Australian Open despite not having been vaccinated for COVID-19 moved to a higher court on Saturday as the top-ranked tennis player appealed the second revocation of his visa.
Djokovic was not seen on the publicly available online broadcast of the 15-minute procedural hearing, which began just two days before he was due to play his first game of 2022 at Melbourne Park.
Judge David O’Callaghan ruled that lawyers representing Djokovic and the government would need to submit written arguments later on Saturday, and set another hearing for Sunday morning.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawk has denied the 34-year-old Serb’s visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at Melbourne airport last week. But the judge returned it on Monday for procedural reasons because Djokovic was not allowed to have a lawyer with him at the airport.
Deportation from Australia can result in a three-year ban on returning to the country, although this can be waived, depending on the circumstances.
Djokovic admitted that his travel permit was incorrect as he failed to indicate that he had been to several countries in the two weeks prior to his arrival in Australia.
He has a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three in a row, part of his 20 grand slam total. He is linked to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer most often by a man in history.
In a social media post on Wednesday that represented his most comprehensive public comment yet on the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it a “human error and certainly not intentional.”
In the same post, Djokovic said he went ahead to give an interview and take a photo with a French newspaper in Serbia despite knowing he tested positive for COVID-19 two days ago. Djokovic has been trying to use what he says is a positive test taken on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to get around the vaccine demand on the grounds that he already has COVID-19.
Hook said he canceled the visa “for reasons of health and order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest.” His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is “strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The main idea behind the appeal was Hook’s decision, according to the athlete’s lawyer, that it was based not on the health risks that Djokovic might pose by not having him vaccinated, but on how he might be viewed by anti-vaccinators.
Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending transfer. The incident has rattled nerves in Australia, especially in Victoria, where locals have gone through hundreds of days of lockdown during the worst of the pandemic and there is an adult vaccination rate of more than 90%.
Australia is facing a huge rise in virus cases due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. On Friday, the country reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria. Although many infected people do not get sick as in previous outbreaks, the increase still puts severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It also disrupted workplaces and supply chains.
“This pandemic has been very 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 outcome of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said. . And that is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.”
His supporters in Serbia resented the cancellation of visas.
Everyone at the Australian Open – including players, support teams and spectators – should be vaccinated. Djokovic has not been vaccinated.
His exemption was approved by the state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa for travel. But the Australian Border Force refused the exemption and canceled his visa when he arrived in the country on January 5.
Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before the judge reversed that decision. This provision allowed him to move freely around Australia and he exercised in Melbourne Park daily.
“The situation is not good for anyone,” said Andy Murray, three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “Looks like it’s been put off for a very long time now.”
According to the Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the first-day playing order is announced, No. 5 Andrei Rublev will move to Djokovic’s place in parentheses.
If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament following the release of Monday’s schedule, he will be replaced on the court by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who has lost in the qualifying tournament but entered the main draw because another player has gone out before. The competition has begun.
And if Djokovic plays in a match – or more – and is then told he can no longer play in the tournament, his next opponent will simply advance to the next round and there will be no substitute.