Novak Djokovic facing anxious wait over Australia visa appeal

The defending champion has been given a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination rules to compete in the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic facing anxious wait over Australia visa appeal

By PA Sport Staff

Novak Djokovic has been given a reprieve in his bid to defend his Australian Open title after the Federal Court of Australia adjourned his appeal against the decision to refuse him a visa.

Djokovic has challenged the Australian Border Force’s decision to cancel his visa application and deport the nine-time Australian Open champion and his appeal has been adjourned until 10am on Monday in Melbourne, court officials said.

The world number one has been told by the Federal Court of Australia that he can remain in Melbourne until his appeal resumes.

Djokovic had said he had been granted a medical exemption to compete
Novak Djokovic had said he had been granted a medical exemption to compete (Adam Davy/PA)

The 34-year-old travelled to Australia after announcing he had received a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination rules to compete in the tournament.

That, however, was not sufficient for border officials with regard to entry into a country that has strict entry requirements. Djokovic was held for several hours at the airport after flying to Melbourne before ultimately being turned away.

An Australian Border Force (ABF) statement read: “The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our laws and entry requirements.

“The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.

“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.

“The ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone.”

Djokovic has not made public on what grounds tournament organisers have granted him a medical exemption. Officials had insisted all players must be vaccinated to travel and compete.

It has been reported Djokovic had not applied for a visa that allows exemptions for unvaccinated people. It is not publicly known if Djokovic has been vaccinated, but he has previously said he is opposed.

News of the tournament exemption provoked a huge public and political backlash.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Djokovic would be on the “next plane home” if he could not provide “acceptable proof” why he was exempt.

The Victorian state government also said it would not support Djokovic’s visa application.

Following the announcement by the ABF, Morrison said that entry exceptions could not be made for anyone.

Morrison tweeted: “Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders.

“No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.”

Aleksandar Vucic
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic voiced his support for Djokovic over the visa issue (Hannah McKay/PA)

Shortly before the ABF statement, Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic weighed into the debate and criticised the way Djokovic had been treated.

Vucic wrote on Instagram: “I just finished a phone conversation with Novak Djokovic.

“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him, and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the harassment of the best tennis player in the world in the shortest possible period.

“In accordance with all norms of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and truth.”

Djokovic is bidding to win a record 21st grand slam title and the Australian Open for a 10th time. The tournament begins on January 17th.

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