Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has used his personal power to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa, but the world No.1’s lawyers are understood to be set to file an immediate injunction against the decision.
Djokovic could be forced to leave the country within hours and faces a three-year ban. The move has thrown the tennis world no.1’s quest for a 10th Australian Open into turmoil along with the tournament, after a draw was already made with him in it as top seed.
Facing deportation, he will face a directions hearing before Judge Tony Kelly in the Federal Circuit Court on Friday night, which is set to get underway at 8:45pm.
Hawke released a statement on Friday saying: “Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
“This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
“In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.
“The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The personal powers granted to the Immigration Minister to cancel visas are broad. If Djokovic is unable to successfully appeal the decision, he faces a three-year ban from being granted another visa, although that can be waived.
The Serbian champion had been waiting for a decision for almost a week on whether the Australian government would revoke his visa for a second time as the row over his medical exemption from the country’s COVID-19 inoculation rules.
The unvaccinated Djokovic, who has now learned his first round opponent in the grand slam – probably next Monday or Tuesday – will be his fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, was reportedly determined to continue the fight in the event the verdict went against him.
Djokovic has been to practise at the Rod Laver Arena where he’s won his nine Australian Open crowns as if he were preparing as usual.
Yet the noise surrounding the 34-year-old’s potential reappearance continued to be deafening, with Djokovic’s cause clearly not helped by his admission that a wrong entry declaration had been made on his visa.
A box was ticked that confirmed he had not travelled abroad in the two weeks before leaving for Australia, even though he had actually been to Spain from Serbia.
He also acknowledged he shouldn’t have done an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper while infected with COVID-19 before Christmas.
One online poll by the News Corp media group showed that 83% of respondents were now backing the idea of the government trying to deport Djokovic.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians disapproved of Djokovic’s stance, saying: “Most of us thought because Mr Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice that he would be asked to leave – well, that was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view.
“The vast majority of Australians … didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or … the king of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with.”
Top players were also continuing to have their say, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of Djokovic’s biggest rivals for the title, asserting on Thursday: “For sure, he’s (Djokovic) been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do.
“Especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country.”
All-time great Martina Navratilova had advice for Djokovic, saying that sometimes your personal beliefs have to be trumped by what’s good for the greater good, for those around you, for your peers.”
Urging him to “suck it up” and go home, she added: “Get vaccinated or just don’t go play.”