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Double fault: Visa revoked again, Novak Djokovic risks deportation

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Double fault: Visa revoked again, Novak Djokovic risks deportation

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for the second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No.1-ranked tennis player will be cleared to compete in the Australian Open despite not having been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said on Friday he had used his discretion to revoke the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa on public policy grounds – just three days before play started at the Open Australia, where Djokovic won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles. .

Djokovic’s lawyers were due to appeal to the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which they did successfully last week on procedural grounds after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.

A court hearing on Friday night learned that Djokovic would not be detained or deported overnight, but is expected to attend a meeting with his lawyers and immigration officials in Melbourne on Saturday at 8 a.m. local time.

Deportation from Australia may result in a three-year re-entry ban, although this may be lifted, depending on the circumstances.

Hawke said he canceled the visa for “reasons of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement added that the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison himself hailed Djokovic’s impending expulsion. The whole episode hit a sore spot in Australia, and particularly in the state of Victoria, where residents have gone through hundreds of days of containment at the worst of the pandemic and where the vaccination rate among adults is greater than 90%.

Australia is currently facing a massive increase in cases of the virus due to the highly transmissible variant of omicron. The country reported 130,000 new cases on Friday, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state. Although many infected people do not get as sick as in previous outbreaks, the outbreak continues to strain the health care system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It also disrupts workplaces and supply chains.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected, ”Morrison said in a statement. “That is what the minister is doing by taking this step today.”

Everyone at the Australian Open – including the players, their support teams and spectators – must be vaccinated against the disease caused by the coronavirus. Djokovic is not vaccinated and had requested a medical waiver on the grounds that he had COVID-19 in December.

This exemption has been approved by the state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on January 5.

Djokovic spent four nights in a migrant detention hotel before a judge overturned the ruling on Monday. The move allowed Djokovic to roam freely in Australia and he has trained daily in Melbourne Park to prepare for playing in a tournament he has won each of the past three years.

He had a training session originally scheduled for mid-afternoon Friday at Rod Laver Arena, the tournament’s main stadium, but pushed it back to the morning and ended several hours before Hawke’s decision be announced in the early evening.

After Hawke’s visa was canceled, media began to gather outside the building where Djokovic is said to have met his lawyers.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Open said tournament organizers had no immediate comment on the latest development in Djokovic’s situation, which eclipsed all other stories ahead of the first Grand Slam event of the ‘year.

“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “I just obviously want this resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s been dragging on for quite a long time now – not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.

Tennis Australia said nine players will hold press conferences ahead of the tournament on Saturday, and Djokovic’s name was not on the list.

With his legal situation still in limbo, Djokovic was placed in the tournament bracket in Thursday’s draw, set to face Miomir Kecmanovic in an all-Serbian clash in the first round.

Under Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the first day of the match is announced, Rublev, seeded No.5, would take Djokovic’s place in the squad and face Kecmanovic. .

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule was released, he would be replaced on the pitch by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but enters the main draw due to the exit of another player before the competition. has begun.

And if Djokovic plays in one match – or more – and then is told that he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent will simply advance to the next round and there will be no replacement.

Melbourne-based immigration attorney Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers faced an “extremely difficult” task of securing court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play the role. next week.

Speaking hours before Hawke’s decision was announced, Bone said: “If you left him later than he did now, I think strategically he really cripples Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of the kinds of options or remedies he could get. “

Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appear before a duty judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court, or a senior judge of the Federal Court, to obtain two urgent orders. An order would be an injunction preventing his deportation, like what he won in court last week.

The second would force Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.

“This second order has almost no precedent,” said Bone. “Very rarely do courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”

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Double fault: Visa revoked again, Novak Djokovic risks deportation

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