Novak Djokovic has sensationally been handed an Australian Open lifeline by a Melbourne court.
The men’s tennis world number one secured his freedom, defeating a deportation order brought by Australia’s government.
The Serbian secured an injunction against immediate deportation on Thursday and spent the weekend at a detention hotel.
Ahead of the Australian Open, where he has won the men’s singles title a record nine times, including last year, Djokovic arrived in the country with what he insisted were the correct documents.
Yet Australian Border Force officials cancelled his visa application, stating Djokovic had “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia”.
Lawyers for the 34-year-old stated he was granted a temporary activity visa on November 18.
The legal team said he was granted a medical exemption for the first grand slam of the year after a COVID-19 positive test on December 16, and was later given the go-ahead by Australia’s Department of Home Affairs to travel.
However, lawyers for the government issued their own court filing on Sunday, disputing Djokovic’s right to come to Australia.
“There is no suggestion that the applicant had ‘acute major medical illness’ in December 2021,” said the government filing. “All he has said is that he tested positive for COVID-19. This is not the same.”
The issue has become a political hot topic in Australia, with Djokovic’s stance on COVID-19 matters rankling with many, particularly in the state of Victoria, who have faced hard lockdowns during the pandemic.
The case was listed as Novak Djokovic v Minister for Home Affairs. That is Karen Andrews; however, the matter has been one in which prime minister Scott Morrison has also become a central figure, insisting when Djokovic’s visa was revoked: “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.”
Djokovic has declined to confirm his vaccination status, but by requiring an exemption to compete at Melbourne Park it has been widely assumed he has not been jabbed. The government filing on Sunday stated it was “common ground that the applicant is unvaccinated”.
His case was heard at Melbourne’s Federal Circuit Court on Monday, with Judge Anthony Kelly ruling that the Serbian’s visa cancellation order is “quashed” immediately.
This means Djokovic’s visa is now valid and he can enter Australia ahead of the Australian Open getting underway in a week’s time.
Tournament director Craig Tiley had said ahead of the hearing that he hoped Djokovic would be cleared to play and defend his title.
The drawn-out saga may not be entirely over just yet, however, as government lawyer Chris Tran indicated Australia’s immigration minister – who has exceptional powers – may consider cancelling Djokovic’s visa again.
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