Friday, March 1

Novak Djokovic’s slim hopes at the Australian Open hinge on a last-minute appeal | Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic’s hopes at the Australian Open hinge on winning a last-minute appeal after another extraordinary day in which the government canceled his visa for the second time.

Shortly before 6pm on Friday in Melbourne, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised personal power to revoke Djokovic’s visa “for reasons of health and good order … and on the basis that doing so was in the interest of public”.

It later emerged that one of the reasons the government wants to deport the world’s No. 1 male is because they believe their presence could “excite anti-vaccine sentiment.”

However, the Serb’s legal team said this was “patently irrational” and immediately requested an urgent injunction hearing that began less than three hours after Hawke’s decision.

Shortly after 11 p.m., after more legal arguments in front of Judge Anthony Kelly, it was finally confirmed that Djokovic would be granted temporary permission to stay, at least until his expedited case is heard in federal court on Sunday.

Before that, Djokovic will also meet with immigration lawyers on Saturday at 8 a.m. There is a slim chance that he may leave Australia after that, however on Friday it seemed much more likely that he would stay and fight.

According to Professor Jack Anderson, director of sports law at the University of Melbourne, the chances of Djokovic succeeding are slim.

“All the Australian government has to do is show that it acted reasonably and rationally, while Djokovic’s team has to make a very limited judicial review request,” he told The Guardian. “They will try to find a way to argue that the elements of the minister’s decision are unreasonable and in fact so irrational that they should be annulled and Djokovic’s visa reinstated.”

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Novak Djokovic's appeal will be heard on Sunday
Novak Djokovic’s appeal will be heard on Sunday. Photography: Diego Fedele / AAP

“Looking at court reviews of immigration cases in Australia in general, one would expect the government to survive this,” he added. “Although we have never had an application like this.”

Certainly the stakes are high. The new decision to cancel the visa threatens to leave the Australian Open without one of its biggest stars and Djokovic, who was seeking a record 21st Grand Slam win in the men’s game, unable to defend the title he has won nine times.

It also means that the 34-year-old could effectively be barred from re-entering the country for three years unless he can demonstrate in future offers that compelling circumstances exist, such as compassionate or Australian national interest grounds.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians had “made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly hope that the outcome of those sacrifices will be protected.”

“This is what the minister is doing by taking this action today,” Morrison said, explaining that he would not comment further “due to the expected ongoing legal proceedings.”

However, at an urgent injunction hearing on Friday night, Djokovic’s attorney, Nicholas Wood, revealed that Djokovic’s visa had been revoked in part because the government believed it would spark anti-vaccine sentiment.

Wood noted that this was “radically different” from the reason for the first cancellation and argued that “there was no rational basis” for the conclusion.

Although Djokovic is not vaccinated, he has not actively promoted misinformation against vaccines. But nevertheless, Australian anti-vaccines have been using the hashtag #IStandWithDjokovic on social media

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Wood also expressed concern for Djokovic’s safety and a possible “media circus” when his client is detained after an interview with immigration officials.

Meanwhile, speaking after his semi-final victory at the Sydney Tennis Classic, Andy Murray described the Djokovic visa saga as “not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”

“I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak while he’s down,” Murray said. “I just want it to be resolved. It would be good for everyone if that were the case. “

Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open men's singles title a record nine times
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open men’s singles title nine times, a record. Photograph: William West / AFP / Getty Images

Djokovic’s saga began when he was arrested after arriving in the country on the night of January 5.

The world’s No. 1 believed that a visa granted on November 18 and a waiver approved by Tennis Australia’s medical director and a panel of independent experts from the Victorian government would be sufficient to enter Australia.

However, he was later told that a recent Covid infection alone was not sufficient for an exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination requirements and posed a risk to public health.

After four days in an immigration hotel, a federal circuit court judge restored Djokovic’s visa on Monday and concluded that it was unreasonable for the Australian Border Force to breach an agreement to give him more time at the airport to board the exemption problem.

Since then, it has also emerged that Djokovic made several public appearances after his positive Covid diagnosis on December 16 and that he traveled from Serbia to Spain for Christmas before flying to Melbourne, despite stating on his visa that he had not traveled in the two weeks before your flight to Australia.

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Der Spiegel also claimed that the abnormalities suggested that the positive result could have been negative or dated December 26.

On Wednesday, Djokovic admitted that his agent made a “clerical error” by stating that he had not traveled in the two weeks leading up to his flight to Australia and acknowledged an “error in judgment” in not isolating himself after he tested positive for COVID.

However, opinion in Australia has since turned strongly against him. A survey of 60,000 people conducted by NewsCorp prior to Hawke’s decision showed that 83% he wanted Djokovic deported.

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