Novak Djokovic has been cleared to play in the Australian Open, after the Federal Court overturned the Australian Government’s decision to cancel the visa of the Serbian tennis star. This rekindles the defending champion’s chance to win a record 21st Grand Slam title at the upcoming Australian Open.
The Federal Circuit Court judge Anthony Kelly ordered the immediate release of the World No. Djokovic, 34, has been held in an immigration detention hotel alongside long-term asylum seeker detainees since Thursday.
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 organising the tournament that starts on January 17, and two medical panels.
“The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly said.
The Australian government said non-citizens had no right of guaranteed entry to Australia, questioned his claimed exemption and stressed that even Djokovic wins the court action, it reserved the right to detain him again and remove him from the country.
AUSTRALIA’S GOVERNMENT SIGNALS RE-DENTION
Australia’s government has signaled Novak Djokovic could be detained for the second time if the tennis champion was successful in his bid to overturn a cancellation of his visa in a court hearing on Monday.
While federal officials failed in their attempt to postpone the hearing, they stuck to their position that the star violated immigration law and should be deported before the Australian Open.
In documents filed late Sunday, lawyers for the government said he used outdated advice to back a medical exemption and that any court decision won’t necessarily mean the end of the saga.
“An order for immediate release does not prevent re-detention if there is power to detain,” lawyers acting for the Minister of Home Affairs said in the document, which also said it was “common ground” that Djokovic was unvaccinated.
The vaccine-skeptical world No. 1 has been confined to a hotel used to detain refugees and asylum seekers, after being rejected by border authorities when he arrived on January 5 to compete in the 2022’s first Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic’s lawyers argued on Saturday that he was granted a valid medical exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination rules following a positive Covid-19 test on December 16. The government rejected that position in its response.
Government officials have said that tournament organizers were told a recent Covid infection wouldn’t allow someone to avoid Australia’s vaccination requirement and receive an entry visa.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said on Channel Nine Sunday that it was “clear” that requirements stipulate that “you need to be double dose vaccinated, if you’re not an Australian citizen, to come into Australia.”
Birmingham said that was “a very clear entry requirement” and “is very clearly communicated” to tournament organizers who issued the medical exemption to Djokovic.