Novak Djokovic: Australian government fails in bid to delay tennis star's visa hearing

A judge will decide whether Djokovic's visa - which was cancelled last week - should be reinstated, reports ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie

The Australian government has failed in a bid to delay Novak Djokovic’s visa hearing until after the Australian Open draw is finalised.

Judge Anthony Kelly rejected, in an order published on Sunday, the submission by home affairs minister Karen Andrews on Saturday to push Monday’s hearing to Wednesday.

But the judge left the government with the option of making another application to delay on Monday.

The Federal Circuit Court heard on Thursday that Tennis Australia had said it would need to know by Tuesday for scheduling purposes if the world number one could compete in the Australian Open.

Kelly at the time, however, insisted the court would not be rushed, adding: “The tail won’t be wagging the dog here.”

Djokovic’s lawyers have claimed the Serb was granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he contracted Covid-19 last month.

The Australian government, however, place doubt on this assertion, adding "there is no suggestion that the applicant had 'acute major medical illness' in December 2021."

It further states: "All he has said is that he tested positive for Covid-19."

The documents also claim the government did not tell Djokovic that his "so-called medical exemption would be accepted."

Supporters of Novak Djokovic dance and sing outside the hotel where he is being held. Credit: AP

In court documents published on Saturday, it was stated Djokovic recorded a positive test on December 16, and has “not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 72 hours”.

Immigration lawyer Christopher Levingston told ITV News: "If the decision is against Mr Djokovic he may well appeal that decision, but in the intervening period, Mr Djojovic doesn't hold a visa, the only person who can grant him a visa is the minister and the minister is unlikely to grant him a visa to be at large in the community while this matter is being ventilated before the courts."

Djokovic has been detained at an immigration facility in Melbourne since Thursday morning after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured to travel to the first tennis major of the year. According to his legal team, Djokovic was also provided with a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording he had a medical exemption from Covid vaccination. It is claimed that the exemption certificate was “provided by an Independent Expert Medical Review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia”, and that “the decision of that panel had been reviewed and endorsed by an independent Medical Exemptions Review Panel of the Victorian State Government”.

Refugees are being held in the same hotel as the world's No. 1-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic. Credit: AP

Djokovic’s lawyers added that he was granted an “Australian Travel Declaration” because he was told by the authorities that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia”. On Friday, it emerged that two other people connected to the tournament have joined Djokovic in being instructed to leave the country by the Australian Border Force. Djokovic, 34, is under instruction to stay at Melbourne’s Park Hotel, which is used to house asylum seekers and refugees, before Monday’s hearing. He broke his silence on Instagram, saying: “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”