The drama in the Novak Djokovic vs the Australian Government saga went into the final hours before the Australian Open, but in the end it was Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Government that prevailed in their quest to deport Djokovic from Australia and prevent him from competing in the Australian Open in Melbourne. The proudly unvaccinated Djokovic had received an exemption to compete in the Australian Open by Tennis Australia while unvaccinated due to a positive COVID-19 test in December, but that exemption did not meet the standards that Australia’s state and federal government authorities had set for entry into Australia from overseas. A standard for entry that, in short, requires any adult seeking entry into Australia to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic was initially granted a reprieve by Judge Anthony Kelly when he appealed his case after being stopped by Australian border control authorities at the Melbourne airport who were seeking to block his entry over flawed VISA entry paperwork. Judge Kelly ruled in favor of Djokovic, and the Serbian superstar was allowed to leave his quarantine hotel in Melbourne and take to the practice courts at Melbourne Park. However, that initial ruling allowing Djokovic entry was not the final story, the Australian Government Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a close ally of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has the reserved power under Australian law to revoke the VISA and order the deportation of anyone who has been granted a VISA to enter Australia. After a few days of uncertainty with much discussion and protests taking place from Belgrade to Melbourne and worldwide, Hawke exercised his authority and ordered Djokovic deported from Australia.
The Djokovic legal team immediately made a final appeal that would have allowed Djokovic to stay and compete at the Australian Open where he is the three-time defending Champion (9 titles in Melbourne overall). Djokovic was forced back into his quarantine hotel as his lawyers sought an expedited appeal process that resulted in a three judge panel, with judges from three Australian cities reviewing the facts of the case and the legal arguments made by both the Government, and Djokovic’s legal team before issuing a final ruling just hours before Djokovic was scheduled to take the court against Miomir Kecmanovic for his first round match.
The emergency appeal did not go Djokovic’s way, with the Australian government’s arguments that Djokovic’s “anti-vaccine views” would be a negative influence on the public, could spark civil unrest, and that Djokovic was reckless in his conduct after testing positive for COVID-19 (taking part in an interview/photoshoot while positive), Djokovic reckless conduct was also considered a negative influence in the country, and those arguments by the government prevailed with the judges. The judges ruled unanimously in favor of the Australian Government and did not allow for any further appeal.
Djokovic’s VISA has been formally revoked and he will be deported from Australia by tomorrow, with his place in the Australian Open draw taken by a lucky loser from the qualifying. Djokovic also faces the possibility that he will be banned from Australia for three years as a result of the Australian Government revoking his VISA, jeopardizing his chances of competing at tournaments in the country in the future including the Australian Open, even if he were to change course and decide to get vaccinated.
Tennis Australia head Craig Tiley will continue to face criticism and pressure as well, as it was his actions to grant Djokovic a medical exemption that began this saga.
After the ruling was announced, Djokovic issued a brief public statement expressing his disappointment in the outcome of his case.
Statement from Novak Djokovic:
"I'd like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this. I am extremely disappointed with the ruling" @theage
— Paul Sakkal (@paulsakkal) January 16, 2022