News, Culture & Society

Novak Djokovic confirms he will not compete in Australian Open and is set to be deported

Novak Djokovic has confirmed he will not compete in the Australian Open and is set to be deported after it was unanimously agreed his visa would be cancelled. 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion issued a brief statement shortly after it was announced he had lost his case in Federal Court, just before 6pm on Sunday. 

The tennis superstar said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the court ruling and said he would be taking some time to rest and recuperate.

It comes after the Serbian star failed to convince three senior judges of his right to stay in Melbourne to compete in the upcoming Australian Open. 

Novak Djokovic has confirmed he will not compete in the Australian Open and is set to be deported after it was unanimously agreed his visa would be cancelled

‘I am extremely disappointed with the Court 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,’ his statement read. 

‘I respect the Court’s ruling and I will 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.’

Djokovic said he wished all the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans the best in the upcoming Grand Slam due to kick off in less than 24 hours. 

‘Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support,’ the player concluded. 

‘You have all been a great source of strength to me.’ 

The tennis superstar (pictured) said he was 'extremely disappointed' with the court ruling and said he would be taking some time to rest and recuperate

The tennis superstar (pictured) said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the court ruling and said he would be taking some time to rest and recuperate

Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan unanimously decided Djokovic did not have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s deportation order.

Mr Hawke wielded his discretionary power on Friday afternoon to deport Djokovic despite a court ruling last week in his favour.

But the odds were stacked against the tennis ace heading into Sunday’s hearing despite his previous court win, because Mr Hawke’s power is so broad.

Chief Justice James Allsop made clear Djokovic could not launch an official appeal against Mr Hawke’s decision. Instead, he had the opportunity to have the judges review the order based on its merit and lawfulness. 

The world No.1 was required to prove to the court that Mr Hawke acted irrationally or legally unreasonably in choosing to use his discretionary powers.

Full reasons for the decision will be released in the coming days.

Djokovic could be on a flight home to Dubai within hours. He’s also responsible for paying costs of the proceedings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to revoke Djokovic's visa was made on health, safety and good order grounds (pictured, Djokovic practices in Melbourne on Thursday)

 Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa was made on health, safety and good order grounds (pictured, Djokovic practices in Melbourne on Thursday)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to the ruling to cancel Djokovic’s visa, stating the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds. 

‘I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe,’ Mr Morrison said in a statement. 

‘As I said on Friday, Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.

‘Over the pandemic, together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world.

‘Strong borders are fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law.

Our Government has always understood this and has been prepared to take the decisions and actions necessary to protect the integrity of our borders.’

The prime minister thanked the Federal Court for the quick decision-making and for having patience as the issue was resolved. 

‘It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer,’ he said. 

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke welcomed the Federal Court’s decision to unanimously reject the player’s attempts to overturn his revoked visa. 

‘I welcome today’s unanimous decision by the Full Federal Court of Australia, upholding my decision to exercise my power under the Migration Act to cancel Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa in the public interest,’ Mr Hawke said in a statement. 

The minister paralleled the decision with Australia’s strong border policies that saw international travel paused earlier in the Covid pandemic.  

‘Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world.

Strong border protection policies are also fundamental to safe-guarding Australia’s social cohesion which continues to strengthen despite the pandemic.’

Mr Hawke said the government would protect the ‘great sacrifices’ Australians have made for the good of public health in going out and getting vaccinated. 

‘To date around 43 million vaccination doses have been administered in Australia and more than 91.6 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are fully vaccinated,’ he said.

‘Accordingly, Australia has been able to commence a step-by-step, safe reopening of its international border as a result of this successful vaccination program.’

Djokovic (pictured) could be on a flight home to Dubai within hours. He's also responsible for paying costs of the proceedings

Djokovic (pictured) could be on a flight home to Dubai within hours. He’s also responsible for paying costs of the proceedings 

Justice Allsop earlier said he accepted Djokovic could be seen as ‘an iconic sports star that is setting an example that is not ideal to be followed’.

‘If Mr Djokovic won the Open, as he has in the past, there is an example embedded in the Minister’s reasoning that this is an example for young and not so young fans of tennis.’

The government did not indicate whether they would take up the option to prevent Djokovic from applying for a visa to enter Australia for the next three years.

More than 83,000 people were tuned in to the Federal Court livestream of the proceedings by 11am to watch the showdown.

Responding to Djokovic’s argument deporting him would cause havoc – with riots and protests expected in the streets of Melbourne – lawyers for the government said they would not be deterred based on the fear of public backlash.

They insist he poses an ‘overwhelming risk’ to the Australian public – demonstrated by his decision to ignore safety measures in his home country and attend work obligations while knowingly infected with Covid-19.

The government did not indicate whether they would take up the option to prevent Djokovic (pictured with his wife Jelena) from applying for an Australian visa for the next three years

The government did not indicate whether they would take up the option to prevent Djokovic (pictured with his wife Jelena) from applying for an Australian visa for the next three years

‘The Commonwealth should not be bound to suffer the presence of an alien for fear of what might happen if they were removed,’ Stephen Lloyd, for the Minister, said on Sunday afternoon.

‘Rightly or wrongly, he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view.’ 

He noted vaccination rates in Djokovic’s home country of Serbia were significantly lower than in Australia, indicating the tennis star was a ‘talisman’ of anti-vax sentiment.

While Australia has a vaccination rate of 92.5 per cent, less than half of all eligible Serbians are double-jabbed.

Mr Lloyd argued this demonstrated the Minister’s belief that Djokovic could be seen to influence his fans based on his own perceived stance on vaccines and ‘may foster anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia’.

Djokovic’s high-powered legal team, led by Nick Wood SC, took issue with Mr Hawke’s reasoning for cancelling the visa, which was primarily a result of his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid.

Tennis Australia will have to swiftly rejig the competition draw within hours to accommodate for one less player (pictured, Djokovic during a practice session on Friday)

Tennis Australia will have to swiftly rejig the competition draw within hours to accommodate for one less player (pictured, Djokovic during a practice session on Friday)

They rebuffed statements Djokovic has ‘a well-known stance on vaccination’.

Mr Wood argued comments the tennis star made about vaccines in April 2020 which have been used to justify the Minister’s decision are not necessarily relevant.

They say Djokovic insisted he was ‘not an expert’ and would do what was best for his body, after indicating he wouldn’t want to be ‘forced’ to take a Covid vaccine well before a jab to protect against the virus had even been developed.

The outcome of the hearing is also bad news for Tennis Australia, who will have to swiftly rejig the competition draw within hours to accommodate for one less player. 

Italian player Salvatore Caruso – who last week was beaten in the semifinals of a tournament in Bendigo – will take Djokovic’s spot in the draw. 

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk