Novak Djokovic avoided immediate deportation overnight but is expected to be detained by immigration officials on Saturday after his visa was canceled for the second time.
On Friday afternoon, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his discretion to revoke the world No. 1’s visa, which also means a three-year ban on entering Australia.
Lawyers for the tennis star will pursue a dramatic eleventh-hour legal challenge over the weekend, with the main hearing scheduled for Sunday ahead of the Australian Open due to start on Monday.
The ongoing visa saga took a dramatic new turn on Friday night when the minister announced his decision at 5:53 p.m., sparking a race through the courts to prevent Djokovic from being deported from the country.
Djokovic’s people received documents at 6:03 p.m., about ten minutes after Mr. Hawke made the decision public.
Lawyers for the tennis star quickly sought an injunction during an urgent hearing in Federal Circuit Court.
During the hearing, Judge Anthony Kelly ordered Djokovic to attend a meeting with immigration officials for an interview at 8am on Saturday, after which the sportsman will be detained from 10am.
A hearing will be held at 10:15 a.m. for procedural matters ahead of Sunday’s main legal event, where Djokovic’s lawyers will challenge the grounds for his latest visa cancellation.
Djokovic’s team is examining a number of grounds against the minister’s decision in a formal request to be filed on Saturday.
His lawyer Nick Wood SC gave a clue when he told the court that the Minister had justified Djokovic’s expulsion on the grounds that his presence would stir up anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia.
Mr Wood called this reasoning “grossly irrational”.
A statement from the minister, Mr Hawke, said he had canceled the visa ‘for reasons of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so’.
The announcement once again made headlines around the world and sparked further outcry from Djokovic’s supporters in his native Serbia.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the minister’s decision.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said in a statement.
“That is what the (immigration) minister is doing by taking this step today.
“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, before COVID and now during the pandemic.”
The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Monday, with the world No. 1 looking to clinch his 10th title at the event.
Djokovic was named in Thursday’s draw, where he is set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.
Djokovic, unvaccinated, arrived in the country last Thursday for the Australian Open, when he was stopped by border officials and his visa canceled.
While that decision was later overturned by a federal court on grounds of fairness, Djokovic faced uncertainty over his grand slam future with the possibility of a second visa waiver by the Minister of Health. ‘Immigration.
Officials reviewed possible discrepancies on Djokovic’s declaration form, which indicated that he had not traveled outside the country in the two weeks prior to his flight to Australia.
Djokovic was filmed playing tennis in Serbia on Christmas Day and was later seen training in Spain on December 31, both within the two-week window.
However, Djokovic denied trying to mislead the government on the form, saying an officer made an “administrative error” in filling out the form.
In a statement posted on social media, the Serbian player also admitted to attending a media interview in Belgrade when he knew he had COVID-19.
The world reacts
The world has reacted to the latest moves against Djokovic, with sports stars, former prime ministers and celebrities.
In Serbia, fans reacted in dismay after learning that the world No.1 was once again at risk of being kicked out of Australia.
“I am revolted. I’m angry because I didn’t expect them to treat the best tennis player in the world like that, ”said Mila Aleksic, a resident of Belgrade.
“I think he didn’t deserve this, especially since he represents our country and he is the No. 1 tennis player and the whole world knows him as such. I think he didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
Djokovic’s former coach and mentor Niki Pilic called the situation “shameful” and said Djokovic was being treated as a “criminal”.
“People don’t understand what it means to be a world champion, what kind of strength, willpower and morale are needed,” said Pilic.
“It’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t play at the Australian Open… he will play in other tournaments.”
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the Djokovic case was a “political distraction” from pandemic crises in Australia.
What a surprise! Morrison’s government cancels #Djokovicthe visa to win the weekend media cycle, which shows us just how furry he is. Why the hell did they issue the visa in the first place? A great political distraction from empty shelves and the nationwide shortage of boosters and RATs. https://t.co/SoHuI1Cfwe
– Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) January 14, 2022