Australian government again suspends deportation of Novak Djokovic

The decision was long overdue. The Australian government announced this Friday, at the end of the day local time and after days of procrastination, the cancellation of Novak Djokovic’s visa. The world number one in tennis has asked the courts to prevent his expulsion from the country. Before federal judge Anthony Kelly, who restored the player’s visa on Monday, the Australian government agreed to suspend the execution of the decision at least until Sunday, when a new hearing on the merits is due to take place.

The Serbian player has not, at this stage, been placed in detention by the authorities, said his lawyer, Nick Wood, who asked that his client, who entered Australia without being vaccinated against Covid-19, remains at liberty for the duration of the proceedings. “We are very concerned about the weather,” he added during the hearing, three days before the start of the Australian Open. The government agreed to let Novak Djokovic free this Friday evening, but wishes to detain him from Saturday morning, after an interview with the immigration services.

Government under pressure

Novak Djokovic continued to train in Melbourne on Friday in hopes of securing a 10th Australian Open title, and a 21st Grand Slam victory, which would be a record. But Australian Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison has found himself under fire for delaying his decision on whether or not to expel the unvaccinated champion.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his personal power to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa, citing in a statement “health and good order reasons”. The Australian government “is firmly committed to protecting Australian borders, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

A few hours earlier, James Merlino, Deputy Prime Minister of the State of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, considered that the uncertain situation of the Serbian player did not harm the reputation of the city. “Melbourne and the State of Victoria have for decades been very proud to organize major events at world level,” he said at a press conference on the health situation.

This second cancellation of the visa implies that Novak Djokovic will be banned from entering the country for three years, except in certain circumstances. The visa of the world number one tennis player had already been canceled for the first time on January 5 when he arrived in Melbourne, and Djokovic was then placed in a detention center with a view to his deportation. His lawyers had won a resounding victory on January 10, however, by getting a judge to reinstate his visa and order his immediate release. Djokovic had been training for the tournament since, but the immigration minister retained the option to revoke the visa again under his discretion.

His long wait could be compared to an admission of weakness. In fact, Alex Hawke and his advisers wanted to study all the consequences of an annulment (appeal by Novak Djokovic’s lawyers) but also of a non-annulment (potentially dangerous precedent). In his statement, the Minister of Immigration underlines to have determined on the faith “of the information provided by the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Customs [Australian Border Force] et Mr Djokovic.»

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Three mistakes

The mention of Novak Djokovic indicates that the latest developments in this case have undoubtedly weighed in the balance. If his version of the facts and their chronology is correct, the Serbian made at least three errors: he did not respect the isolation in Serbia to which he was held after his positive test for covid on December 16, he Illegally traveled to Spain around New Years for a tennis camp at a Marbella academy, he did not mention this trip when filling out his entry form to Australia on January 5. In addition, there are strong doubts about the possible manipulation of his PCR test.

In recent days, Novak Djokovic’s lawyers had sent the authorities new information to explain these inconsistencies. For his part, the player had published on his Instagram account a long message to apologize for certain errors of appreciation.

The Australian Open is scheduled to start Monday, January 17 in the morning. Nine times winner, Novak Djokovic was the main favorite and the number 1 seed. On Thursday, his name was included in the men’s singles table. Placed in the same half of the table as Rafael Naadal, he is expected to face his compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round. If the absence of Djokovic were to be confirmed, he would be replaced at the same place in the table by a “lucky loser”, ie a player eliminated in the last round of qualifying.

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