Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic was deported Sunday after losing an 11th-hour bid in an Australian federal court to save his chances to compete in the Australian Open after refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19
The Australian federal court unanimously found that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was within his legal rights to cancel Djokovic’s visa for the second time Friday on the grounds that the tennis star’s views on vaccines posed a risk to the public health and “good order” of the country.
Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, incluing the past three, and was seeking a record 21st Grand Slam title. He is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
After the hearing, Djokovic issued a statement expressing that he was “deeply disappointed” by the court’s decision and was later deported from the country on an Emirates flight to Dubai.
“I am extremely disappointed with the court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” Djokovic said. “I respect the court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.”
Djokovic, 34, also said that he was “uncomfortable” that he had been the focus of attention during the 10-day saga, which was closely followed by those who both support and oppose vaccines, and said he would be “taking some time to rest and to recuperate.”
“I hope that we can all now focus on the tournament I love,” Djokovic said. “I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.”
Hawke confirmed that Djokovic had left Australia in a statement, in which he praised the decision of the court.
“I welcome today’s unanimous decision by the full federal court of Australia, upholding my decision to exercise my power under the Migration Act to cancel Mr. Novak Djokovic’s visa in the public interest,” Hawke said.
“Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world.”
The televised hearing on Sunday was requested by Djokovic’s lawyers because of the looming competition. It was held before a three-judge panel, making the decision of the court binding, while tens of thousands of people worldwide tuned in to the livestream.