Jan 11 , 2022. 11 hours ago – 23:12 KYODO NEWS
SYDNEY – Tennis star Novak Djokovic on Monday won an expedited legal battle against the cancellation of his Australian visa, with an Australian court ordering the Serbian’s immediate release from immigration detention.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court said in its decision that the Australian Border Force’s actions in canceling Djokovic’s visa upon arrival in the country were “unreasonable.”
But the government indicated after the court order that it retains the power to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time, leaving it unclear if the men’s world No. 1 can play in the upcoming Australian Open, which starts Jan. 17.
Following the court decision, Djokovic tweeted, “I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation.”
“Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen,” he said, adding “I remain focused on that.”
Djokovic has spent the past several days in a detention hotel in Melbourne while his lawyers fought to keep him from being deported, after border officials deemed he had not provided sufficient evidence to be granted a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement imposed upon all travelers entering Australia.
The record nine-time Australian Open winner is seeking his 21st overall Grand Slam title, which would see him surpass Swiss Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafael Nadal to take the men’s record for most Grand Slam titles.
Before flying to Australia, Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption from the vaccination requirement by the Victorian state government, on the grounds he had contracted the virus less than a month ago on Dec. 16, and has since recovered.
Djokovic flew into Melbourne late Wednesday night. Court documents show that after being interviewed by border officers over the course of several hours, he was told at 5:20 a.m. on Thursday that he could have until 8:30 a.m. to respond to a notice of intention to cancel his visa.
But the officers made the decision to cancel his visa just after 7:30 a.m., depriving him of an opportunity to consult his lawyers and Tennis Australia to provide evidence why his visa should not be canceled.
The documents showed Djokovic had also been led to believe he had satisfied all necessary requirements before leaving for Australia, after the Australian government assessed him to have met the requirements for quarantine-free entry based on a travel declaration he had filed before departure.
After lawyers for Djokovic made arguments, Judge Anthony Kelly, who presided over the case, asked in court on Monday, “What more could this man have done?”