Australian government mulls deportation of unvaccinated tennis star Djokovic after judge orders his release

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Australian government has exceeded a four-hour time limit to decide whether to deport Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, after a federal judge ordered his release from detainment on Monday afternoon, allowing the tennis star to remain in the country — at least for tonight.

The world No. 1 tennis player has been detained since Thursday for allegedly breaking the rules of entry into the country to defend his title at the Australian Open next week.

Judge Anthony Kelly of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia had earlier ordered Djokovic’s release from an immigration detention centre in Melbourne within 30 minutes of his decision on Monday afternoon.

But he might not be off the hook yet. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has the power to deport Djokovic and will announce his decision soon.

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Nearly four hours after winning his case in court, the tennis player remained inside his lawyer’s office. A black sedan leaving the premises was surrounded by protesters, many of them Serbian, shouting “Free Djokovic!” the BBC reports. It is unclear whether he was inside the car, which had blacked-out windows.

The 34 year old tennis great has been detained since January 6, when his visa was revoked on grounds of travel violations, though he claims to have obtained a medical exemption and been cleared to play at the tournament, which he has previously won a record nine times. The Australian Open is set to begin on January 17.

In a statement on their website last week, the Australian Border Force wrote “Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.”

However, Judge Kelly refuted that claim, saying it was the border control who hadn’t followed the rules. He argued that Djokovic wasn’t given enough time to consult with his lawyer and the tournament director upon being detained at the airport in Melbourne before his visa was revoked. He further said Djovokic had done everything required of him, short of getting vaccinated, before being cleared to enter the country and boarding his flight from Dubai.

“What more could this man have done?”

The Serb who has reportedly been infected twice with Covid-19, remains unvaccinated. He last tested positive for the virus on December 16 last year, according to reports, while making several public appearances without a mask in his home country where Covid measures appear to be more relaxed.

The tennis player flew to Melbourne last week after Tennis Australia determined his recent infection qualified him for exemption from strict travel rules requiring all players to be vaccinated for Covid-19.

The Serbian great currently has 20 grand slams, tied with long-time rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. One more win would not only break his own record with 10th titles at the tournament, but more significantly crown him as the greatest of all time, with 21 total grand slam titles.

If there’s one thing Djokovic is good at, it’s winning grand slams. Since his professional debut down under in 2005, the current defending champion has won 9 out of his 17 appearances at the tournament, including the past three editions of the tennis tourney.


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Jay Shine

A longtime expat in Asia with a degree in journalism and creative writing. Highlights include writing for Condé Nast Traveller and Apple Music. In his spare time, Jay enjoys writing poetry, brewing traditional Chinese tea and lounging with his calico soi cat, Almond.

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