The Novak Djokovic saga took another twist on Friday after Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke ripped up his visa for a second time.
The world No. 1 has faced stinging criticism since landing Down Under unvaccinated ahead of the Australian Open.
He spent four days in a quarantine hotel after his medical exemption was rejected, although a judge quashed that decision on Monday. It then emerged he had turned up for an interview with L’Equipe on December 18 in the knowledge he had Covid-19, which he blamed on an “error in judgement”.
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The backlash has intensified with each day, culminating in Hawke’s decision to deport the Serbian just three days before the tournament begins in Melbourne. He remains the Australian Open's greatest champion with nine titles, but is set to leave with his reputation in tatters barring another dramatic curveball.
So what happens now?
Why was Djokovic’s visa cancelled again?
It’s no secret that players wanting to compete at the Australian Open need to be fully vaccinated or have a sufficient medical exemption. Djokovic was relying on the latter, claiming that a recent Covid infection – albeit one he ignored to attend an interview – was sufficient to bypass the rules. The Australian government disagreed.
Hawke said he had cancelled the world No. 1’s visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”
A recent poll suggested over 80% of Australians wanted to see Djokovic deported. Australia has experienced some of the strictest lockdowns in the world during the coronavirus pandemic.
Australian PM Scott Morrison added: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.”
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Has Djokovic appealed?
He has. Despite the announcement arriving at 18:00 local time on a Friday, Djokovic's team managed to get the case back into court on the same night.
Incredibly, a full hearing will now take place on Sunday morning – barely 24 hours before the tournament gets underway.
What will happen to Djokovic until then? Will Djokovic be detained?
You guessed it, back into the world of detention.
According to The Age, Djokovic is expected to appear at immigration offices, or similar location, on Saturday morning. He will then be detained, although he can't be deported until legal action is concluded.
Will Djokovic be banned from Australia for three years?
Hawke used section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time. Under this ruling, the 20-time Grand Slam champion will not be able to get another visa into Australia for three years – basically ending his hopes of winning the title again.
However there are exemptions to this, typically on compassionate grounds, and it’s unclear how this would be applied to a tennis player.
Is Djokovic still in the Australian Open draw?
He is. The top seed (for now) is due to face Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round on Monday.
Theoretically, that match could be pushed back until Tuesday if his appeal drags on.
Why is Djokovic not vaccinated?
Long before the Covid vaccination was invented, Djokovic revealed that he was opposed to the idea during a Facebook live chat.
“Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said in April 2020. “But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”
But those thoughts do not appear to have changed. He continued to swerve the topic throughout 2021, before saying in October he "will not reveal" whether he had been inoculated.
“The media has become… I have no word how to describe it. It spreads fear and panic among people and I don’t want to participate in that rift. I feel that everyone is hostile. I don’t want to give them a reason to write some things about me,” he told Serbian publication Blic.
Obviously the truth is out now. After the fiasco in Australia, it is quite clear that Djokovic is unvaccinated.
Can Djokovic compete at other Grand Slams?
It looks that way. France's sports minister has already suggested Djokovic will be free to compete at the French Open in May, regardless of his vaccination status. Wimbledon and the US Open have not commented publicly, but it seems unlikely they will follow the Australian Open's strict approach.
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