It came as a surprise to many: tennis professional Novak Djokovic was allowed to enter Australia on Monday after all – after almost four days of waiting, which he initially spent in a notorious deportation hotel and most recently in a place unknown to the public after Australian border guards had previously served him at the airport Melbourne had their visa revoked.
A judge in Melbourne gave an urgent decision to the tennis star’s objection to the refusal of entry: The Serbian world number one, who is now known to have not been vaccinated and has a rather chaotic family, can also take part in his favorite competition in 2022: the Australian Open, starting January 17th in Melbourne.
The 34-year-old has already won the Grand Slam tournament nine times, for the last three years in a row. Will he be granted so much pleasure in the public and in the practice of his profession this time too? Will the fans cheer him on? Or will boos for the record winner be heard in the stands?
Everyone sees this as an example
Many have been very upset about the immigration posse at Melbourne Airport: Some have said that ignorant tennis millionaires believed that they could defy applicable laws. The others, for example members of the Serbian government, because they believed that the baseline dominator from Belgrade would be an example of unvaccinated harassment; the “Djoker” had to repent for millions of people who were not convinced by a vaccination campaign. Yes, this is just another crime in the country that, with 246 lockdown days, is one of the most restrictive in the world. Alternatively, some demanded that the Serbs be deported as quickly as possible – unvaccinated! The others demanded that he be admitted to Australia immediately – freedom!
But what really happened was only slowly revealed in all the excitement about the rejection by the border guards, especially since the situation – to put it mildly – is confusing. Anyone interested in legal reading can have a look at the documents on the Internet that the Federal Supreme Court published in full in the “Djokovic vs. Minister of Home Affairs” case.
The night of the visa withdrawal
Djokovic’s version of the story can be read in a 41-page affidavit, backed up by official confirmations, PCR tests and immigration papers: He was therefore already granted a visa for January 2022 in November. After a positive PCR test on December 16 and another negative PCR test on December 22, he was finally granted a medical exemption on December 30.
In it, an independent medical expert committee of the Australian tennis association TA confirmed that Djokovic met the conditions for an exception to the strict Covid entry rules. At present, foreigners are only allowed to enter Australia as double-vaccinated. However: a survived Covid infection within the last six months is one of the recognized exceptions. And Djokovic’s exemption has been “reviewed and approved” by the relevant audit committee of the government of the state of Victoria, in which Melbourne is located.
The tennis professional also stated on oath that he had arrived from Dubai on Thursday night at 11.30 p.m. and was immediately taken away from the passport control by the Australian Border Force for questioning. Djokovic describes how the officer questioned him “after 25 hours of arrival” and repeatedly left the room, apparently to get instructions over the phone. At first he was forbidden to make calls himself, said Djokovic. He was always cooperative.
At around 4 a.m. he was allowed to sit on a more comfortable sofa, and later he was also assigned a room with a bed. He had tried – with the permission of the border officials – to contact a lawyer or the Australian Tennis Association, but it was not possible in the middle of the night. He was then told that he had until 8.30 a.m. to comment on the visa refusal. But then he was questioned again at 6:14 a.m. Shortly before 8 a.m. he was given the rejection notice: According to Section 116 of the Migration Act of 1958, his visa will be withdrawn and entry denied, according to the notice.
According to the law, a visa may be denied “if the holder’s presence in Australia is or may be a risk to society or the health, safety or order of the Australian community or one or more persons”.
The judge at the Melbourne Federal Court, Anthony Kelly, actually did not want to recognize any wrongdoing on the part of the tennis star on the Monday after the hearing: Kelly had already stated during the hearing that he rather considered the action of the authorities against Djokovic to be disproportionate: “What else would this man have can do more? «There was simply not enough time for Djokovic, according to the reasoning of the court decision, which upheld Djokovic’s objection, ordered his immediate release and ordered the other side to bear all costs of the proceedings. As promised, Djokovic should have been given until 8.30 a.m. to “consult others” and “present further arguments as to why his visa should not be canceled”.
In the meantime, dozens of Serb supporters had gathered in front of the courthouse and chanted “Novak, Novak, Novak!” A number of people had also come to Melbourne’s Rialto Tower, where Djokovic’s lawyers have their offices. Videos on Twitter show cheering people being dispersed with pepper spray by the Australian police as the crowd mistakenly stormed an SUV leaving the courthouse: Novak Djokovic was suspected to be in the car.
The so acclaimed, however, reported a few hours after the verdict on Twitter. He was happy and grateful: “Despite everything that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete at the Australian Open.” He flew to Melbourne to “play at one of the most important events in front of the great fans.” Together with his coach Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic also trained in the Rod Laver Arena.
The Serbian media rejoiced, after all, they had declared the matter a political issue days ago. Djokovic had “won in Australia, as he always does,” wrote the daily “Blic”. His family also held a press conference that lasted more than an hour back home, in which father Djokovic did not compare his son to Jesus this time, but announced ten more Grand Slam victories. The tussle over the visa gave his Novak “additional strength”.
Djokovic’s participation is not yet certain
But despite his first training session at midnight, Djokovic could still be prevented from starting at the Australian Open. During the hearing, the lawyer for the Australian government, Christopher Tran, had stated that despite the decision, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could still use his ministerial powers and order Djokovic’s departure personally. In this case, the tennis player would no longer be allowed to enter the country for three years. However, legal recourse would then be open to him again to take action against it.