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Judge overturns Australian government's decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa

Last Updated Jan 10, 2022 at 7:59 am MST

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a return to Hungary's Marton Fucsovics at the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy Arena in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Novak Djokovic returned to the tennis court Monday for training, having won a legal battle to stay in Australia and play in the Australian Open after his exemption from strict coronavirus rules was questioned. But the government is still threatening to cancel his visa and deport him.

Judge Anthony Kelly says Djokovic had not been given sufficient notice of his visa cancellation, and that was a big factor in getting the cancellation quashed.

The Australian government canceled his visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late Wednesday because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The decision to now allow Djokovic to play might still be up in the air as the Australian government warned it may cancel his visa a second time despite Monday’s court ruling.

Government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge that the immigration minister “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation.”

That would mean that the nine-time Australian Open winner and defending champion could again face deportation and could miss the tournament, which starts on Jan. 17. It could also bar him from the country for three years.

Djokovic argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month.

Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months.

Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia, which is organizing the tournament later this month, and two medical panels.

“The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood.

Wood agreed with the judge that Djokovic could not have done more.

Transcripts of Djokovic’s interview with Border Force officials and his own affidavit revealed a “repeated appeal to the officers with which he was dealing that to his understanding, uncontradicted, he had done absolutely everything that he understood was required in order for him to enter Australia,” Wood said.

Djokovic has been under guard in hotel quarantine in Melbourne since Thursday, when his visa was canceled.

But the judge ordered that the world No. 1-ranked tennis player be released from hotel quarantine during his court hearing. It was not clear where Djokovic relocated to during his hearing. He did not appear on screen in the first hours of the virtual hearing.

Late Monday night, Djokovic tweeted out a photo that showed him and his team standing on one of the main show courts of the tournament. He was already back to training, his brother told reporters in Serbia.

“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen,” Djokovic said in the post.

 

Lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews will make their submission later Monday on why Djokovic should be deported.

Djokovic’s lawyers submitted 11 grounds for appeal against his visa cancellation.

The lawyers described the cancellation as “seriously illogical,” irrational and legally unreasonable.

The virtual hearing crashed several times because of an overwhelming number of people from around the world trying to watch the proceedings.

Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.