JOHN PIE and ROD MCGIRK
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic’s attempt to play at the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19 was taken to a higher court on Saturday when the No. 1 ranked tennis player appealed the second cancellation of his visa.
Djokovic was not seen in the public online broadcast of the 15-minute due process hearing, which began just two days before he is due to play his first match of 2022 at Melbourne Park.
Judge David O’Callaghan ruled that lawyers representing Djokovic and the government would have to submit written arguments later on Saturday and scheduled an additional hearing for Sunday morning.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawk blocked the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa, which was initially canceled when he landed at Melbourne airport last week. But on Monday, he was reinstated by a judge on procedural grounds because Djokovic was not allowed to have a lawyer with him at the airport.
Since the latest appeal began on Friday night, Djokovic has been allowed to remain at large, but the plan was for him to actually return to immigration jail when he met with Australian Border Force officials at 8am on Saturday.
Deportation from Australia may result in a three-year ban on return to the country, although this may be waived depending on the circumstances.
Djokovic has a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three in a row, part of his total of 20 Grand Slams. He is linked to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer the most in history.
Djokovic admitted that his travel declaration was incorrect as it did not indicate that he had been to several countries in the two weeks before arriving in Australia.
In a social media post on Wednesday that became his most extensive public comment on the entire episode, Djokovic accused his agent of ticking the wrong box, calling it “human error and certainly not intentional.”
In the same post, Djokovic said he did an interview and photo shoot for a French newspaper in Serbia despite knowing two days earlier that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Djokovic tried to use what he said was a positive December 16 test to justify a medical exception that would allow him to bypass the vaccine requirement.
Hawke said he canceled the visa “for reasons of health and order, on the grounds that it is in the public interest”. His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is “strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The main basis for appealing Hawke’s decision, according to the athlete’s lawyers, was that it was based not on the health risk that a lack of vaccination might pose to Djokovic, but on how opponents of vaccination might perceive it.
Morrison himself welcomed the impending deportation of Djokovic. The whole episode touched a nerve in Australia, and especially in the state of Victoria, where locals endured hundreds of days of lockdown during the worst of the pandemic, and adult vaccination rates are over 90%.
Australia is currently facing a massive surge in cases of the virus caused by a highly contagious variant of omicron. On Friday, the country reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in the state of Victoria. While many infected people are not getting sicker than in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting a serious strain on the healthcare system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It also causes disruption to jobs and supply chains.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said. “That’s what the minister is doing by taking these actions today.”
All Australian Open players, including players, their cheerleaders and spectators, must be vaccinated against the coronavirus disease. Djokovic was not vaccinated and was seeking a medical exemption on the basis that he said he tested positive for COVID-19 in December.
This exemption was approved by the Victorian government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a travel visa. But the Australian Border Guard rejected this exception and canceled his visa when he landed in the country on 5 January.
Djokovic spent four nights in a hotel for detained immigrants before a judge overturned the decision. This decision allowed Djokovic to move freely around Australia and he trained daily in Melbourne Park.
“This is not the best situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time Australian Open finalist. “I just want this to be obviously resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that were the case. It just feels like it’s been going on for quite some time – not good for tennis, not good for the Australian Open, not good for Novak.”
Under the rules of the Grand Slam, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the first day’s order of play is announced, the No. 5 seeded Rublev will move to Djokovic’s place in the bracket.
If Djokovic exits the tournament after the schedule is released on Monday, he will be replaced on the field by a so-called “lucky loser” – a player who lost in the qualifier but was promoted to the main draw due to another player being eliminated before the competition. started.
And if Djokovic plays in a match – or more – and is then told that he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent will simply go to the next round, and there will be no replacement.
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