Novak Djokovic flew out of Australia after losing a court appeal


Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic flew out of Australia on Sunday after a court upheld the government’s decision to revoke his visa, covering days of drama over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and its non-vaccinated status.

A unanimous decision by a three-judge federal court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open starting on Monday.

The Serbian player arrived at the Melbourne airport just hours later. Federal agents escorted him and his team from the business lounge to the gate, where they boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai. The flight took off shortly before 11:00 GMT.

In the rollercoaster ride, the world’s top male athlete was first detained by immigration authorities on Jan. 6, ordered released by a court on Jan. 10, and then re-arrested on Saturday pending a court hearing on Sunday.

Djokovic said after the verdict that he was “very disappointed” because it meant he would not be able to participate in the tournament.

“I respect the court’s decision and I will co-operate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he said in a statement, wishing the tournament well.

Djokovic, 34, has appealed against the use of discretionary power to revoke the visa of Immigration Minister Alex Hawk. The minister said Djokovic could be a threat to public order as his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amid Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Chief Justice James Olsop said the court’s decision was based on the legitimacy and legitimacy of the minister’s decision in relation to the three grounds of appeal filed by Djokovic’s legal team.

“It is not part of the court’s job to decide on the merits or wisdom of the decision,” Olsop said, adding that the three judges were unanimous in their judgment. The full rationale behind the verdict will be revealed in the coming days, he said.

It was not immediately clear when Djokovic would leave the country.

‘Keep Boundaries Strong’

The player’s visa saga has dominated headlines around the world, and the debate over the rights of those who choose to remain unvaccinated has intensified as governments take steps to protect their people from a two-year coronavirus epidemic.

The controversy has become a political touchstone for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he prepares for the May election. Djokovic’s government has been criticized for handling his visa application.

Morris welcomed the court’s ruling, saying it would “help keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.”

“Now is the time to move on with the Australian Open and enjoy summer tennis,” he said in a statement.

Djokovic was granted a visa to enter Australia on 16 December with the Covid-19 transition, which provides the basis for medical exemption from Australia’s requirements for vaccinating all visitors. The release was organized by Tennis Australia.

That release has sparked widespread outrage in Australia, which has gone through some of the most difficult COVID-19 lockdowns in the world and where more than 90% of adults have been vaccinated. The government said the latest infection alone does not meet its standards for immunity.

Crying fans

But the player also had some support, especially from Serbians living in his native Serbia and Australia.

“I think the court’s decision is reprehensible, I am disappointed, I think it shows how the rule of law works or it is better not to work in some other countries,” Serbian Prime Minister Anna Branabiિકે said on Sunday.

In Melbourne, about 70 Djokovic fans, including young children, sang ballads and chanted mantras in the Federal Court Plaza as they awaited a court ruling.

They gathered around the loudspeaker to hear the judge read the verdict, but it took several minutes after the court adjourned until Djokovic was found to have lost. The two women were crying, while the others started chanting for a while before the crowd dispersed.

“What they did today is nothing but justice,” said Natasha Marjanovic, 44, a Djokovic supporter who was wiping away tears. “They killed a beautiful athlete and all of us who love his career and tennis.”

In Serbia, people have vented their anger at the treatment of their sports heroes. President Alexander Vucic on Friday slammed the Australian government, calling it “harassment and bullying (onu) … the best tennis player ever.”

Vusik said on Sunday that he had spoken to the player following the court’s decision. “I told him we could not wait to see him,” he told reporters. “I told him he was always welcome in Serbia.”

“Today’s decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa marks the end of a very sad series of events,” the men’s tennis governing body ATP said.

He added in a statement that the decisions of legal authorities regarding public health must be respected.

Tennis Australia said it respects the decision.

On the tennis circuit, fellow players were eager to end the media circus around Djokovic as it became an unwelcome distraction, leading to uncertainty over the tournament’s draw.

But after Djokovic’s legal defeat, many people sympathized with him.

Canadian tennis player Wasek Pospisil said on Twitter, “With elections coming up, there was a political agenda playing here that could not be clearer.”

“It’s not his fault.”

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