Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic may still be booted from the country, despite a judge ruling he can stay to defend his Australian Open crown.
The world number one finally hit courts at Melbourne‘s Rod Laver arena for a late night training session on Monday night for the first time since landing Down Under last Wednesday.
But he’s still not a guaranteed starter for the grand slam following his release from five days holed up in immigration detention.
Immigration minister Alex Hawke has refused to rule out using his personal powers to cancel the 20-time Grand Slam winner’s visa yet again.
Daily Mail Australia understands that Mr Hawke was deliberating the move and will not make a call on whether to re-cancel Djokovic’s visa until Tuesday morning Australian time at the earliest, six days out from the start of the tournament.
Novak Djokovic (pictured left with wife Jelena) will remain in Australia, for now
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic still doesn’t know for certain if he will be allowed to stay in Australia to play in the Australian Open (pictured after winning last year’s tournament in Melbourne) despite a judge ruling in his favour and ordering his immediate release on Monday evening
‘Following today’s Federal Circuit and Family Court determination on a procedural ground, it remains within Immigration Minister Hawke’s discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa … The minister is currently considering the matter,’ a spokesman for the minister said on Monday night.
Mr Hawke’s federal MP colleague and former Australian tennis star John Alexander on Monday night spoke out against re-cancelling Djokovic’s visa.
He said the minister’s discretionary power is meant for criminals and contagious people, not ‘political problems’.
‘It would appear Covid-negative Novak has complied with all health entry requirements, the judge asking: “What more could this man have done?”,’ Mr Alexander wrote.
‘Based on this, Novak does not seem to present an unreasonable health risk to Australia.
‘So what would be the “public interest” the Minister could potentially use to exercise his personal powers to deport our defending Australian Open tennis champion?
‘Retaining the Australian Open as a grand slam event, I would argue is in our national interest.
‘The minister’s “personal powers to cancel visas” are designed to prevent criminals otherwise walking our streets, or to prevent a contagious person otherwise walking our streets; they’re not designed to assist in dealing with a potential political problem of the day.’
There were jubilant scenes on the streets on Melbourne on Monday night after Novak Djokovic was freed from immigration detention
Immigration minister Alex Hawke (pictured) has refused to rule out using his personal powers to re-cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa
The minister’s colleague, Liberal MP and former tennis champion John Alexander slammed the government’s consideration to re-cancel Djokovic’s visa
It was speculated Mr Hawke had just four hours to make such a decision, but it later emerged the four hour window is only relevant if the government had decided to bring in Djokovic for further questioning, which has not happened.
However, there is no time limit on the minister’s power to cancel the visa and can be done whenever he decides there is enough evidence that there is a ground to do so and if it’s in the public interest.
Judge Anthony Kelly noted if Djokovic was to be deported through an order from Mr Hawke, he could be forbidden from returning to Australia for three years, though there would be discretion to allow him back in for next year’s Open.
He told the court in no uncertain terms that if the government does consider this motion, he must be given ample notice to prepare for future proceedings.
Until then, Djokovic is free to remain in Australia and compete at the Open – which starts on January 17 – where he will bid to become the most-decorated men’s singles player of all time.
The Serb is currently level with Federer and Nadal on 20 Open titles each. Federer is out of this year’s tournament with injury, while Nadal will be competing in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic is still in limbo as immigration minister refuses to rule out cancelling his visa – but posted this picture of himself practicing at Rod Laver area just hours after he was finally released from detention after a five-day-long ordeal
Djokovic broke his silence over the Australian government’s failed attempt to cancel his visa, saying he still wants to compete at the Australian Open next week.
‘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,’ he said on Twitter, alongside a picture of himself practicing late at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
‘I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.’
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NOVAK DJOKOVIC’S CASE
Will Novak Djokovic play at the Australian Open? Nobody will know until the Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke declares his hand – either to allow Djokovic to stay in Australia or to re-cancel his visa.
If he does not decide to cancel his visa, Djokovic will be free to stay in Australia and defend his title.
What happened in court? Judge Anthony Kelly quashed the decision to tear up Djokovic’s visa and ordered him to be freed and his belongings to be returned.
Will he still be deported? Again, this comes down to immigration minister Alex Hawke. The Djokovic case has been a debacle for the government and divided Australians over the best course of action.
Djokovic’s family said in a press conference in Serbia that he had returned to training on the tennis court and the ‘rule of law has won’.
His mother Dijana said her son ‘suffered torture’ at the hands of Australian immigration officials, while his father Srdjan said Djokovic had his ‘human rights taken away’, and that he had been denied contact with friends, his team or his lawyers during the ordeal.
‘At the end he won, justice has won and the rule of law has won,’ Srdjan said.
Djokovic’s brother Djordje said the family found the situation ‘very difficult’.
‘We are very emotional about my brother. It’s difficult to defend Novak and not to offend anyone at the same time.
Fans became increasingly agitated when their hero failed to emerge from his lawyers’ office – before it became clear he had somehow snuck out undetected
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s (pictured left to right) uncle Goran, mother Dijana, father Srdjan and brother Djordje hold a press conference in Belgrade on Monday night – saying the tennis champion had his ‘human rights taken away’
Members of the Serbian community (pictured) are seen marching through Melbourne on Monday night, with the scene soon becoming violent as protesters crashed with police – leading to many being pepper-sprayed
‘We are fighters for justice and rule of law and we have done everything we could to follow procedures.’
The comments from Djokovic and his family came after a night of violence involving his supporters on Melbourne’s streets, days of legal confusion and endless political posturing.
Djokovic’s visa for Australia was cancelled due to an apparent issue with his Covid vaccination exemption, and he was held in a cheap hotel under an immigration detention order while he waited for his appeal to be held on Monday.
Then after five days of chaotic bureaucracy and finger pointing between the Australian federal government, the Victorian state government, the Serbian government and Tennis Australia, a court overturned the cancellation of his visa.
This led to wild celebrations from an army of fans who had gathered at the Djokovic’s lawyer Paul Holdenson’s office, with many of the supporters waving Serbian flags to honour their fellow countryman.
A member of the press (pictured) lies on the ground after sustaining an injury during clashes between the Serbian Community and Victorian Police officers in Melbourne on Monday
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s mother Dijana (pictured left) and father Srdjan (pictured right) held a press conference in Belgrade on Monday night, saying the player had been ‘tortured’
But the celebrations turned violent when a car with tinted windows thought to contain Djokovic emerged from his lawyer’s car park.
It’s not known if he was even in the vehicle, but many of his supporters were convinced he was and that he’d been arrested – leading them to try and stop the car by laying their bodies in the road.
Some began spitting and throwing bottles at the police, while officers used pepper spray to clear a path for the car.
Djokovic was watching the court proceedings from his lawyer’s office when Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly ordered the 34-year-old to be freed from detention at Melbourne’s Park Hotel by no later than 5.46pm.
Judge Kelly quashed the decision to tear up Djokovic’s visa and ordered that all his personal belongings be returned, saying: ‘What more could this man have done?’
The decision is a huge blow to the Department of Home Affairs which had claimed Djokovic had relied on out-of-date ATAGI advice to enter the country.
Police try to hold back supporters of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic as they surround a car as it leaves the offices of his legal team in Melbourne on Monday, with man convinced the star was inside and being arrested. This turned out to just be a rumour
Djokovic’s lawyer Paul Holdneson is seen in the carpark of his office building on Monday evening, when Novak Djokovic was still inside and both fans and police were swarming the building
A fan is seen having water poured into his eyes in Melbourne after being pepper-sprayed by police
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s brother Djordje (pictured beside a photo of his brother) speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, where he said it had been an ’emotional’ time for the family
Supporters of Serbian Novak Djokovic chant and sing outside the offices of lawyers following his court win on Monday
Police clear fans of Serbian Novak Djokovic as a car leaves his lawyers’ offices following his court win before the Australian Open in Melbourne
Fans dance and sing outside an immigration detention hotel where Serbian Novak Djokovic was confined in Melbourne
Serbia’s parliamentary speaker Ivica Dacic voiced his exasperation that the case is still ongoing, saying ‘the process should have ended when the court ruled on the matter.
‘The Australian authorities have obviously chosen to deport him, which also includes a three-year ban on entering Australia. It defies common sense.’
As things stand, there are three options open to the immigration minister. He could let Djokovic stay in Australia to compete in the tennis tournament he came for, he could re-cancel his visa and ban the star from coming to Australia for three years, or he could re-cancel the visa but not impose a three-year ban.
The first option would be the path of least resistance, the second and third would lead to more legal action.
It comes as Djokovic’s signed affidavit has offered a detailed account of his ordeal during a relentless interrogation by border officials, leaving the tennis star ‘upset and confused’.
The world No.1 was made to sleep on a couch in between questioning after touching down in Melbourne about 11.30pm on Wednesday.
EXCERPT OF NOVAK DJOKOVIC VISA INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
Interview #1 begun at 12.21am on January 6:
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. So when I ask you what were your reasons for travelling to Australia today?
DJOKOVIC: I’m a professional tennis player and the main reason for me coming to Australia is participating in the Australian Open in Melbourne, Victoria.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Now question regarding your vaccination, are you vaccinated for COVID-19? Not vaccinated?
DJOKOVIC: I am not vaccinated.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Have you ever had COVID?
DJOKOVIC: Yes. I had COVID twice, I had COVID in June 2020 and I had COVID recently in – I was tested positive – PCR –16th of December 2021.
DJOKOVIC: I have the documents as well to confirm that if you want I can provide
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. I’ll just make a photocopy of those documents.
He’d already spent 25 hours in transit and was astounded to learn his medical exemption was not considered satisfactory, saying he genuinely believed he had done all that was required.
Djokovic told the court he ‘did not understand what was happening’ or why they would consider cancelling his visa and repeatedly pleaded with officials to allow him time to consult his legal team when they woke up.
He was first alerted that something was amiss as soon as the plane touched down in Australia. Both Djokovic and his team were ordered off the plane and immediately questioned.
The situation in Melbourne became increasingly hostile of Djokovic fans turned up outside his lawyers’ office to see the star released (pictured on Monday night)
Djokovic told the court his passport was seized at this time and never returned. Judge Anthony Kelly ordered it be returned to him no later than 5.46pm Monday following his monumental court win.
By 12.20am, Border Force officials were ready to commence a formal interview with the Serbian star, demanding all documentation relating to the medical exemption.
Djokovic handed over the same documents he’d already provided, including his medical exemption letter from Tennis Australia and correspondence with the Department of Home Affairs indicating he’d met requirements to travel.
‘I was asked whether I had been previously infected by Covid. I told him that I had been infected twice… the most recent occasion being December 2021.’
Djokovic said in his affidavit he was happy to oblige because he recognised that the issue was his vaccination status, and wanted to reassure the officials he’d taken all the precautions to ensure he was fit to travel.
Ecstatic fans reacted with joy when they learned Djokovic was going to be released (pictured in Melbourne on Monday)
‘That is why I wanted him to see the COVID-PCR test results, but I recall he did not appear to be very interested in these documents,’ Djokovic recalled.
During the interview, the official left the room on up to eight occasions to seek advice from his superior.
On one such occasion, the 34-year-old tennis star was reprimanded for using his mobile phone while he was alone in the room. He was told to switch off the phone and put it away, and did so.
After a 90 minute interrogation, it was determined there was ‘nothing else Djokovic could provide’ and he was permitted to ‘go into the corridor to rest on the sofa’.
The black car, which many fans were convinced was taking Djokovic away, was quickly surrounded as police tried to keep them back
He was woken about 4am with a document notifying him of the intention to ‘consider cancellation of [his] visa’.
Djokovic immediately attempted to reason with the officers, telling them that he’d received advice from the Independent State Government medical panel which explicitly stated his recent Covid infection was grounds for exemption.
‘He told me he was giving me 20 or so minutes to respond, give comments or give any other information that may affect their decision whether to cancel my visa.’
This decision would eventually be the critical reason Djokovic was successful in his appeal on Monday.