Canberra cancels Djokovic’s visa, Australian Open participation in doubt

Canberra has revoked the visa of world tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic, likely putting an end to the Serbian tennis star’s hopes of defending his title at the Grand Slam Australian Open tournament in Melbourne.

‚ÄúToday I exercised my authority under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to revoke Mr. Novak Djokovic’s visa on grounds of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do this,” Immigration Minister Alex, Hawke said in a statement on Jan. 14 after using his discretionary powers on visa issues.

There was no immediate comment from Djokovic or his legal team. Under Australian law, it is possible to appeal the decision.

The news came after Djokovic practiced serving and returning to a court in Melbourne Park with no spectators.

Djokovic was top seeded in the tournament’s draw, but he was left in limbo when Hawke considered revoking his visa a second time due to COVID-19 entry rules.

Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, traveled to Melbourne with a medical waiver from Australia’s requirements for visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The then 34-year-old appeared eager to defend his title and compete for a record 21st Grand Slam trophy when the tournament kicks off on January 17.

His troubles started immediately upon arrival in Melbourne when the Australian Border Patrol decided his waiver was invalid and placed him in an immigration detention hotel.

On January 10, an Australian judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa and released him. Since then, the case has gone to Hawke, whose spokesman earlier this week said “long further submissions” from Djokovic’s legal team had delayed a decision.

The situation has sparked outrage in Australia, which has endured some of the world’s longest lockdowns and now faces runaway cases attributed to the omicron variant. Serbia, on the other hand, has rallied behind the player, with some Serbs expressing anger at his treatment.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Simon Birmingham defended the government’s policy on January 14, saying it was “crystal clear”.

They are demanding that non-citizens entering Australia receive a double dose “unless they have a clear and valid medical exemption for it,” Birmingham said on Australian television.

“That policy has not changed and we will continue to strictly enforce that policy,” Birmingham said.

Djokovic’s case was not helped by an error in his entry declaration which ticked a box stating that he had not traveled abroad in the two weeks prior to arriving in Australia. In fact, he had traveled between Spain and Serbia.

Djokovic blamed his agent for the mistake and acknowledged that he was also denied an interview and photo shoot for a French newspaper on December 18 while he was infected with COVID-19.

Some tennis players say Djokovic should be allowed to play, but not everyone was positive.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, ranked fourth in the world, criticized his behaviour, telling Indian broadcaster WION: “He is definitely playing by his own rules.”

With reporting by Retuers and AFP

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