MELBOURNE (AFP) – Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic trained at the Australian Open venue Tuesday in search of a record 21st Grand Slam but his dream hung in the balance as the government pondered cancelling his visa, again.
The world number one had scored a stunning courtroom victory the day before, overturning the Australian government’s decision to cancel his visa on Covid-19 vaccination grounds.
The unvaccinated 34-year-old Serbian ace now says he is determined to stay in Melbourne and compete in the Australian Open, which starts in just six days.
“I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans,” Djokovic said on Instagram Monday.
Wearing a t-shirt and shorts, he limbered up in a gym Tuesday accompanied by coach Goran Ivanisevic before going into the players’ area and heading for centre court at Melbourne Park, two AFP journalists saw.
Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, jetted into the country six days ago carrying a medical exemption from vaccination due to a positive coronavirus test on December 16 last year.
After overnight questioning at Melbourne airport, border officials decided the exemption was not valid, cancelled his visa and transferred him to a detention centre pending deportation.
“I am not vaccinated,” Djokovic had told the border official, according to a transcript released by the court.
He expressed bewilderment that the exemption, approved by two medical panels in Australia, was not being accepted.
The limited number of foreigners allowed into Australia must be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption. The government insists that a recent infection does not count as an exemption.
Federal circuit court judge Anthony Kelly dramatically reversed the visa decision Monday, ordering the cancellation be “quashed”, that the player be released immediately from detention, and that the government pay his legal costs.
The government had surrendered the case after conceding that Djokovic’s airport interview was “unreasonable” because the player had not been given the promised time to respond before his visa was torn up.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s office said the judge had ruled on a “procedural ground”.
“It remains within immigration minister Hawke’s discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa under his personal power of cancellation,” his office said in a statement to media Monday.
“The minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing.”