Australia cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time Friday in a sensational new attempt to deport the unvaccinated tennis superstar.
The country’s conservative government, defeated once in the courts, invoked extraordinary executive powers to again rip up the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa on public interest grounds.
Djokovic, an avowed Covid-19 vaccine sceptic, is the tournament’s top seed and had been practising on the Melbourne Park courts just hours before Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s bombshell decision was announced.
He cited “health and good order grounds” for the decision and said “it was in the public interest to do so”.
The visa cancellation effectively means the world’s number one tennis player would be barred from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except under exceptional circumstances.
Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood requested an injunction against his removal and appealed for him to be allowed to remain out of immigration detention as the case proceeds.
– ‘All fools’ –
“To say that a high-level sportsman like Novak is a danger to the health of Australians is just absurd, it’s a scandal,” said 28-year-old local government employee Petar Stojanovic.
Border agents rejected his exemption, revoked his visa and placed him in a notorious Melbourne detention centre where he spent four nights.
Djokovic’s top-flight legal team overturned the visa decision in the federal circuit court on Monday because border officials at the airport had failed to give him the agreed time to respond.
Some tennis players say Djokovic should now be allowed to play, but not all have been supportive.
“For sure he has been playing by his own rules,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with Indian broadcaster WION.
– ‘Error of judgement’ –
On the day of his claimed positive test in Serbia, he attended a ceremony to honour him with stamps bearing his image. The following day he attended a youth tennis event. He appeared at both apparently without a mask.
But he admitted that he also went ahead with an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe on December 18.
The journalist who carried out the L’Equipe interview, Franck Ramella, said he had been unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was Covid-positive.
In fact, social media posts and reports show he flew from Serbia to Spain during that period.
As Covid-related hospitalisations rise in Melbourne, the Victorian state government said Thursday it would cap capacity at the Australian Open at 50 percent.