Melbourne, Australia –
Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday night after losing his last attempt to avoid expulsion and play at the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier, a court unanimously rejected the No.1-ranked tennis player’s challenge to have his visa revoked.
Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision but respected it.
A masked Djokovic was pictured in a Melbourne airport lounge with two government officials in black uniforms. He left on an Emirates flight to Dubai, the same city in the United Arab Emirates from which he flew to Australia.
He has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, but this time won’t even get the chance to try.
“I respect the court’s decision and will cooperate with the relevant authorities regarding my departure from the country,” he said in a statement.
Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus was on him since his visa was first canceled when he arrived at Mebourne airport on January 6.
“Hopefully now we can all focus on the game and the tournament that I love,” he said.
The national federation which organizes the tournament, Tennis Australia, said it respected the Federal Court’s decision. “We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all the players the best of luck,” he said in a statement.
A deportation order also usually includes a three-year ban on re-entering Australia.
In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic said the hearing was “a farce with a lot of lies”.
“They think they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, and they actually humiliated themselves. If you said that the one who has not been vaccinated does not have the right to enter, Novak would not come or would be vaccinated,” Vucic told reporters.
He said he told Djokovic after talking to him “that we can’t wait to see him in Serbia, to go back to his country, to come where he is always welcome”.
He did not say whether Djokovic had said he would go to Serbia first after his deportation.
Chief Justice James Allsop said the decision boiled down to whether the Minister’s decision was “irrational or legally unreasonable”.
Hawke welcomed the decision. His office did not immediately provide details on how or when Djokovic would leave.
“Australia’s strong border protection policies have protected us during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries and highest vaccination rates in the world. “Hawke said.
“Strong border protection policies are also fundamental to preserving Australia’s social cohesion which continues to strengthen despite the pandemic,” he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed what he described as the “decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe”.
But opposition spokeswoman for the home affairs portfolio, Kristina Keneally, said Djokovic was being deported for what he said and did publicly abroad before the government granted him a visa in November .
“This mess is not a failure of our laws. It is a failure of Morrison’s skill and leadership,” Keneally tweeted.
The response to the pandemic has become politically charged with Morrison’s Conservative coalition seeking a fourth three-year term in elections due in May.
Infection rates have soared across much of Australia since December, when Morrison’s government eased what had been some of the Democratic world’s toughest restrictions on international travel.
“I will now take some time to rest and recover, before making any further comments beyond that,” he said.
The court process that hoped Djokovic would maintain his aspirations for a 21st Grand Slam title was extraordinarily fast by Australian standards.
Within three hours of Hawke’s announcement on Friday afternoon that Djokovic’s visa had been revoked, his attorneys appeared before a federal circuit judge and family court to challenge the decision. The case went to Federal Court on Saturday and submissions were filed by both parties the same day.
The three judges heard the case for more than five hours on Sunday and announced their verdict two hours later.
There was evidence that Djokovic should be expelled based on Hawke’s assessment that he was seen as a “talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiments”.
Hawke’s lawyer, Stephen Lloyd, took aim at Djokovic’s anti-vaccination stance and his “history of ignoring COVID safety measures”.
Lloyd cited the example of Djokovic giving an interview to a French journalist last month while infected with COVID-19 and removing his mask during a photoshoot. Djokovic admitted that the interview was an error in judgement.
The minister canceled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could pose a risk to the health and ‘good order’ of the Australian public and ‘may be counterproductive to vaccination efforts by others in Australia’ .
Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled on January 6 by a border official who decided he did not qualify for a medical exemption from Australian rules for unvaccinated visitors. He was exempted from the tournament’s vaccination rules as he had been infected with the virus in the previous six months.
Vasek Pospisil, a Canadian who won the Wimbledon men’s doubles title in 2014 and who worked with Djokovic to form an association to represent the players, tweeted: “There was a political agenda at play here with the (Australian) elections ) to come that couldn’t be It’s not his fault. He didn’t force his way into the country and ‘make his own rules’; he was willing to stay at home.”
Pospisil wrote that Djokovic would not have tried to go to Australia at all and “was at home with his family” if he had not received the medical exemption.
Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies, tied with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in tennis history male.
Djokovic’s dominance of late has been particularly impressive, winning four of the last seven majors and finishing second in two others.
The only time he didn’t reach at least the final in that span was at the 2020 US Open, where he was disqualified in the fourth round for hitting a ball that inadvertently hit a judge line to the throat after a match.
Because Djokovic withdrew from the tournament after Monday’s schedule was published, he was replaced on the pitch by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but enters the main draw due to the exit of another player. before the start of the competition.
That player is Italian Salvatore Caruso, who is ranked 150th in the world.
Associated Press writers John Pye in Melbourne, Australia, Howard Fendrich in Washington DC and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia contributed to this report.
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