In the tennis saga’s latest twist, the unvaccinated men’s world No1 was deemed a “public health risk”. Immigration minister Alex Hawke cancelled his visa for a second time days after a judge had reinstated it.
A court also ordered the 34-year-old Serb be detained from 8am this morning, but he was allowed to go to his lawyers’ offices in Melbourne to prepare an appeal against the decision in a federal court tomorrow.
It means it is now unlikely he will embark on a bid to retain and win a 10th Australian Open title and a record-breaking 21st men’s Grand Slam on Monday.
Instead the star faces the ignominy of being deported home at any time and a three-year visa ban.
Djokovic was last night preparing to launch another legal challenge to the latest visa cancellation, which Mr Hawke said was made on “health and good order” grounds after a row over the player’s right to remain in the country unvaccinated.
The player’s lawyer Nicholas Wood said the minister was being “patently irrational”. Citing a government document with more details on why the visa was revoked, Mr Wood said it was not because he is a danger to the public, but because “he will excite anti-vax sentiment”.
But Australian prime minister Scott Morrison remained defiant. He said: “I note the minister for immigration’s decision in relation to Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa.
“I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the minister to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.”
Some of Djokovic’s fellow pros greeted the decision with measured diplomacy, but said the row was bad for the game.
Britain’s double Wimbledon champ Andy Murray, who has reached the final of a warm-up event in Sydney, said: “It’s unfortunate it’s ended up in this sort of situation.
“I don’t know what route he goes down, if he can appeal and how long that takes. [I] just want it to get resolved. It seems like it’s dragged on ‑ not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”
Seven-times women’s Grand Slam champion Justine Henin welcomed the move. She said: “Maybe it’s better for everyone, for tennis, for the tournament and maybe for him that he doesn’t play.”
Some believe if Djokovic had been allowed to play in the tournament, he would have received a hostile reception from Australian crowds.
Former British No1 Andrew Castle said: “When it comes to the crowd reaction, I suspect they [would] boo him roundly and the whole thing turn into a pantomime.”
Djokovic’s visa was first revoked on his arrival in Melbourne on January 6, after Australian Border Force officials said he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to receive a vaccine exemption.
He was detained for six days at an immigration hotel before his visa was reinstated by a federal judge who ordered his release, ruling officials had ignored correct procedure.
Djokovic then admitted to mistakes on his immigration forms and to meeting a journalist last month, despite testing positive for Covid.