A court hearing for tennis star Novak Djokovic’s appeal against a deportation order that threatens his participation in the Australian Open ended Sunday and a verdict was expected within hours.
Federal Court Chief Judge James Allsop stated that he and two other judges had hoped for a decision on Sunday. To defend his Australian Open title, the top-ranked male tennis player must win the appeal. Play begins Monday.
Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer, said it planned to release the schedule for Monday’s matches about 75 minutes after the court adjourned. Djokovic was supposed to be playing on Day 1.
Djokovic fought in a daylong urgent hearing the government’s attempt to deport him based on Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s assessment that the top-ranked player is considered a “talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment. “
Hawke’s lawyer Stephen Lloyd took aim at Djokovic’s anti-vaccination stance and his “history of ignoring COVID safety measures. “
Lloyd pointed to Djokovic testing positive for COVID-19 last month and attending a French media interview while infectious and removing his mask for a photo shoot. Djokovic admitted that his actions were a mistake of judgement.
“The minister believed that his appearance in Australia would inspire people to disregard safety precautions,” Lloyd stated.
Lloyd stated that Djokovic’s presence in Australia “was seen as a risk to the health and well-being of Australian citizens.” “
On Friday, the minister cancelled Djokovic’s visa due to his “presence in Australia” posing a threat to health and the “good order” in Australia. He also stated that Djokovic was “counterproductive to vaccination efforts by other Australians.” “
Australia has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world.
Djokovic’s lawyers argued that the minister provided no evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may “foster anti-vaccination sentiment. “
Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood also said the minister had failed to take into account how deporting Djokovic might “galvanize anti-vax activists,” as happened when the 34-year-old Serb faced deportation shortly after arriving in Melbourne on January 5.
Djokovic supporters had called for a boycott of the Australian Open.
Hundreds of activists held a peaceful rally outside the Melbourne Park complex that hosts the Australian Open on Saturday and planned another for Monday over Djokovic’s treatment.
” We’re here at Rod Laver Arena in support of Novak. Here, he’s already won nine titles (Australian Open). This will hopefully be his No. 10 — if he can get out of quarantine and get his visa back,” said Harrison McLean, one of the rally organizers. We are a peaceful organization, working to spread awareness and promote freedom of choice for all. “
Lloyd stated that Hawke knew that Djokovic would be unable to renew his visa, which could lead to “unrest”. However, the concerns of the minister about the Serb’s staying there were much greater.
Djokovic spent Saturday night in an immigration detention hotel after he and his lawyers met with immigration officials earlier in the day.
Djokovic was allowed to leave the hotel and spend Sunday at his lawyers’ offices. He was accompanied by two immigration officers, who watched over him while the challenge was being heard through videoconference.
Djokovic had spent four nights confined to a hotel near downtown Melbourne before being released last Monday when he won a court challenge on procedural grounds against his first visa cancellation.
Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
The Health Department advised that Djokovic was a “low” risk of transmitting COVID-19 and a “very low” risk of transmitting the disease at the Australian Open.
Djokovic, who has won the last three Australian Open titles, is seeking a record 21st Grand Slam singles title. For the record for most men in history, he is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
In a Wednesday social media post, Djokovic blasted his agent for not checking the right box in his declaration of arrival to Australia. He called it a “human error” and said that it was unintentional. “
Hawke downplayed Djokovic’s failure to disclose his travels to Spain and Serbia in the 14 days before he landed in Australia. Hawke stated that he would “give it some weight in favour of cancelling” his visa.
The episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and particularly in Victoria state, where locals went through more than 260 days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic.
Australia faces a massive surge in virus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state. Although the number of infected is decreasing, it still puts severe pressure on the system and causes disruption to supply chains.
Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia have been dismayed by the visa cancellations. Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President, accused Australia of harassing and maltreating Djokovic. He also asked if Morrison’s government was just looking to gain political points in the run-up to the upcoming election.
“Why did you not give him a visa or return him immediately? Vucic contacted the Australian authorities via social media. Vucic asked the Australian authorities in a social media address, “Why do you harass him? And why aren’t you treating his family as well as a nation free and proud?” “
Everyone attending the Australian Open must be immunized.
According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to pull out of the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. Djokovic would be replaced by Andrey Rublev, 5th seed.
If Djokovic pulls out of the tournament before Monday’s schedule has been released, he will be replaced by a “lucky looser”, a player who loses in a qualifying tournament but is allowed to enter the main draw due to another player exiting.
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