Djokovic Deported After Judges' Verdict on Sunday, Replaced in Aus Open Draw

Novak Djokovic has left Australia after his visa cancellation was upheld by the Federal Court on Sunday.

3 min read
Djokovic Deported After Judges' Verdict on Sunday, Replaced in Aus Open Draw

Novak Djokovic's second appeal against his visa cancellation was dismissed by an Australian Federal Court on Sunday and the Serbian was deported on a flight out of Melbourne the same evening.

Djokovic boarded a plane to Dubai, on his way to Serbia, on the eve of the Australian Open, in which the top seed was hoping to win his 21st Grand Slam title, breaking the tie with archrivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Three Federal Court judges unanimously upheld the decision made on Friday by the Australian Immigration Minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds.

Federal agents escorted Djokovic and his team as they boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai on Sunday night, a journey expected to take 14 hours.

The 34-year-old, who is an opponent of people being forced to take the Covid-19 vaccine, was scheduled to play country-mate Miomir Kecmanovic on the Rod Laver Arena on January 17. He has been now replaced by World number 150 Salvatore Caruso in the Australian Open men's singles draw.

The deportation has evoked a strong reaction in Serbia with the country's President Aleksandar Vucic saying Australia had "humiliated themselves".

"They think that they have by this... this mistreatment of ten days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high," Vucic told a state media outlet.

Miomir Kecmanovic, who was set to face nine-time champion Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open, called the incident a "bitter pill to swallow".

"Our little Serbian team here in Melbourne is upset and disappointed and I think we have to make an extra effort to somehow avenge our best representative who was prevented from being here," Kecmanovic wrote on Instagram.

Visa Cancelled Twice in a Week

Djokovic was initially given a medical exemption by the Victorian state and Melbourne authorities for competing in the Australian Open after he declared that he had Covid-19 in December last year. But the Federal authorities cancelled the medical exemption and the visa, following his arrival in the country on 6 January.

The star players' lawyers had then appeared before a single-judge bench, which had reinstated the ace player's visa. But the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday, 14 January used his discretionary powers to cancel the visa given to Djokovic because he said it was in public interest to do so because of players' Covid-19 vaccination stance.

As a last recourse, Djokovic again appealed his deportation from Australia before a three-member Federal judge panel, which upheld the Immigration Minister's 14 January order.


Djokovic Released Statement Before Departure

After the court's decision, the nine-time Australian Open men's singles title winner in a statement said he was disappointed with the ruling but he respects it and will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to his departure from the country.

"I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today's court hearing. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this. I am extremely disappointed with the ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open," Djokovic was quoted as saying.

"I respect the court's ruling and I'll cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country. I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.

"Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me," he added.

(With inputs from IANS)

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