Novak Djokovic faces another legal battle to defend his Australian Open title as the Australian government revoked his visa for the second time.
Novak Djokovic may not be able to play at the Australian Open after the Australian government revoked his visa again. (Image: William West/Getty/AFP)
The news rocked futures markets for the men’s Australian Open title, with Daniil Medvedev (+145) overtaking Djokovic (+170) as tournament favorite.
Morrison welcomes Visa decision
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke told reporters on Friday that he was revoking Djokovic’s visa on grounds of public interest. Prime Minister Scott Morrison supported the decision.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods,” Morrison said in a statement. “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they have a right to expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected.”
Australian Open officials, in cooperation with the Victoria state government, approved a medical exemption for Djokovic. Australia normally requires all foreign visitors to provide proof of vaccination. However, Djokovic has publicly stated that he is unvaccinated. He applied for an exemption because he contracted COVID-19 in December.
When Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on January 5, border officials refused his exemption and canceled his visa. The 20-time Grand Slam winner appealed, and a judge overturned the decision on Monday.
Djokovic’s legal team is appealing this decision again to the Federal Circuit and Family Court. Anthony Kelly, the same judge who previously ruled in Djokovic’s favour, hears the case. Melbourne-based immigration attorney Kian Bone told the Associated Press that Djokovic will struggle to win that appeal.
“Very rarely do the courts order a member of the executive branch to issue a visa,” Bone told the `.
Djokovic questions the reasons for the revocation
Djokovic argues that Hawke’s decision was not based on any real public health risk, but on what the Serb’s participation in the Australian Anti-vaccination Open would look like.
“The Minister is considering the potential for exciting anti-vax sentiment just in case he is present,” attorney Nick Wood told reporters. “The minister doesn’t think about the effect [removing Djokovic] possibly on anti-vax sentiment and indeed on public policy. That obviously seems irrational.”
Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times in his career. He has won the tournament in each of the last three years and is the current No. 1 player in the world.
Australian Open officials released the tournament draw on Thursday. If Djokovic plays, he would face fellow Serbian player Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round on Monday. Many teammates have criticized Djokovic for his anti-vaccination stance. However, they have also been sympathetic to his struggles, given how the Australian government has handled the visa situation.
“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” Andy Murray told reporters. “It just seems like it’s dragging on for quite a while now – not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”