Novak Djokovic's appearance at the upcoming Australian Open is looking increasingly unlikely, reports Sports Editor Steve Scott
Men's tennis world number one Novak Djokovic will now wait until Monday to find out whether he can remain in Australia, and compete in the Open there, after the country denied him entry and cancelled his visa.
The 34-year-old Serbian challenged the Australian Border Force’s refusal to allow him a visa after being caught up in Covid vaccination rules. His appeal has been adjourned until 10am on Monday in Melbourne, court officials said.
A van, believed to be carrying Djokovic, arrives at a hotel in Melbourne and is met by health workers in protective gear.
The nine-time Australia Open champion has been told by the Federal Court of Australia that he can remain in Melbourne until his appeal against the authorities' decision resumes.
He has reportedly been taken to Park Hotel, a quarantine facility which has also been used as an immigration centre according to online reviews, while awaiting his departure flight.
Djokovic had announced on social media on Tuesday that he had medical exemption from the Covid vaccine.
He later landed in Australia with a medical exemption from the Victoria state government that was expected to shield him from the strict vaccination regulations in place for this year’s first major tennis tournament.
An Australian government minister explains why Djokovic was denied entry into the country, ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports
After a backlash, and the Australian government commenting on the case, national border authorities rejected the exemption.
The Australian Border Force issued a statement saying Djokovic had in fact failed to meet entry requirements. It confirmed on Thursday morning (Australian time) Djokovic’s visa application has been cancelled and he will be deported.
Players competing in the Australian Open, which begins on January 17, are all required to be vaccinated.
The Australian Border Force said in a statement: "The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.
“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia. The ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone.”
Local reports have suggested the tennis star has been quarantined at Park Hotel in Carlton in the meantime.
The facility is used by the government to houses immigration detainees - many asylum seekers and refugees have reportedly been held there for years while seeking Australian visas.
Approximately a dozen Djokovic supporters wrapped in Serbian flags have assembled outside the hotel in protest of the star's treatment, according to local media.
Last April, he said: "Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel."
But some tennis players have said the reason for the vaccine exemption should be made public, with others suggesting greater transparency would allow the Serbian to play.
While expressing sympathy for Djokovic's current predicament, Rafael Nadal said the 20-times grand-slam champion could be playing "without a problem" if he had wanted to.
Nadal, who revealed he was fully vaccinated when he contracted Covid recently, said there are "rules" and not wanting to get jabbed could get you in "trouble".
'The vaccine is the only way to stop this pandemic', Nadal said
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had stronger words for Djokovic.
He said of the country's Covid rules: "If you have a visa and you're double vaccinated, well you're very, very welcome to come.
"But if you are not double vaccinated and you're not an Australian resident or citizen, you can't come. Many countries have those rules around the world and we have them and they have been very important for securing Australia during the course of this pandemic."
'If you have a visa and you're double vaccinated, you're very welcome to come'
Mr Morrison had also said Djokovic "must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons" to enter the country.
Other world leaders have chimed in on the row, which quickly sparked a diplomatic fallout.
Shortly before the Australian Border Force's statement, Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic criticised the way authorities dealt with Djokovic.
Vucic wrote on Instagram: “I just finished a phone conversation with Novak Djokovic.
“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him, and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the harassment of the best tennis player in the world in the shortest possible period.
“In accordance with all norms of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and truth.”
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said the vaccine exemption is a "matter" for Australia to deal with, but added that it is a good idea to get jabbed in any instance.
'I share very strongly of the Australian authorities- it is a very good idea to get vaccinated', Johnson says
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: "Fair and independent protocols were established for assessing medical exemption applications that will enable us to ensure Australian Open 2022 is safe and enjoyable for everyone."Tennis Australia said the process included the redaction of personal information to ensure privacy for all applicants, meaning Djokovic was not obliged to make his exemption public.