Second break point. World tennis number one Novak Djokovic was returned to administrative detention on Saturday in Melbourne after the cancellation of his visa for the second time by the Australian government, which maintains that the player not vaccinated against Covid-19 constitutes a public danger. A new twist that makes it increasingly unlikely that the 34-year-old Serb will participate in the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.
According to court documents, Novak Djokovic, who had been summoned to Australia on Saturday morning (France on Friday evening) by the immigration services, was placed in a Melbourne detention center pending a court decision on his case. Referral hearings are scheduled before a Federal Court, with the final hearing scheduled for Sunday morning (this Saturday at 11:30 p.m. French time). Authorities said on Friday evening that they would not expel the tennis player from Australia until the judges have ruled.
The player is only allowed to leave the detention center – according to ABC News, it is again the sinister Park Hotel, where the player was first placed – only to follow the legal hearings online concerning him from the offices of his lawyers, and under the surveillance of border police officers.
“Resurgence of civil unrest”
A few hours earlier, the Minister of Immigration, Alex Hawke had estimated in a document presented to the courts that the presence in Australia of Djokovic ‘could encourage anti-vaccination sentiment’ and “trigger an upsurge in civil unrest”. In his conclusions, the minister argued that Djokovic’s presence in the country “is likely to pose a health risk to the Australian community”, because it encourages anti-vaccination sentiment, he says.
While admitting that the risk of Djokovic infecting Australians himself is “negligible”, the Minister felt that his “contempt” past health rules against Covid is a bad example, and therefore a risk to public health. In a statement posted on social media on Wednesday, Djokovic admitted to having incorrectly completed his declaration of entry into Australia, and not having respected the rules of isolation after having tested positive for Covid in December.
A saga started 10 days ago
The dismissal of Novak Djokovic in detention is the latest episode in a saga that began on January 5, when the player was blocked on his arrival in Melbourne. “Nole”, a notorious vaccine-skeptic, had been turned back on his arrival in Australia and placed for the first time in administrative detention. The player, who contracted Covid-19 in December, had hoped for an exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated, but the authorities did not accept this explanation.
The Australian government suffered a humiliating setback on January 10 when a judge blocked Djokovic’s deportation, reinstated his visa and ordered his immediate release. The Serb was then able to resume his training for the Australian Open. Eventually, the Minister of Immigration canceled his visa again on Friday under his discretion and “on health and public order grounds”, a measure that is difficult to challenge in court.
Dreams of a 10th title in Melbourne are all the more distant as this visa cancellation, if confirmed by justice, implies that Djokovic will be banned from entering the country for three years, except in exceptional circumstances.
Update at 8:10 am with the precision of the Park Hotel as the place of detention.