Novak Djokovic has left the Australian shores two weeks earlier than anticipated as the Serbian tennis star was deported from the country on Sunday after the federal court dismissed the world number one’s bid to have his visa restored.
Djokovic initially expected to defend his Australian Open title despite not being vaccinated against Covid-19, but he had his visa cancelled for a second time on Sunday after failing to acquire a proper medical exemption ahead of his flight to Australia and listing inaccurate information in his travel declaration form.
Here is a look at the timeline of events leading up to his deportation from Australia:
▶ December 14
Djokovic attends a professional basketball game in Belgrade and is photographed alongside several players who later produced positive tests.
▶ December 17
Djokovic also attended an event in Belgrade honouring youth players and was photographed alongside the young players without a mask, later admitting that he received a positive PCR test after the event.
▶ December 18
Djokovic does an interview and photoshoot with the French newspaper L’Equipe but doesn’t mention anything about a positive test result. In a statement released in January, Djokovic says, “on reflection, this was an error.”
▶ December 22
Djokovic tests negative for Covid-19.
▶ December 30
According to court documents, Djokovic received a medical exemption from Tennis Australia to enter the country without a vaccine after having just recovered from the virus.
Djokovic is seen in Serbia and Spain in the two weeks before flying out to Melbourne. The Serbian, however, ticked ‘No’ on a travel declaration when asked if he had travelled anywhere 14 days before his arrival.
▶ January 5
Djokovic posts on Instagram that he is leaving for Melbourne after receiving exemption permission from Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government. Djokovic arrives in Melbourne at midnight is immediately detained by Australian Border Forces, and has his passport taken away.
▶ January 6
Djokovic’s visa is cancelled by the Australian government, and the Serbian is taken to a temporary detention facility at the Park Hotel in Melbourne.
▶ January 10
On Monday, Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly Judge chooses to overturn the cancellation of his visa and orders his release from detention after four days. However, the Judge does specify that Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke reserves the right to deport Djokovic.
▶ January 13
As he awaits the decision on his deportation, Djokovic is drawn against Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the Australian Open and is seen practising at the Rod Laver Arena.
▶ January 14
Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time on Friday. The minister stated that his decision “serves the public interest” as Djokovic’s presence in Australia might risk “civil unrest” since he is a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment.”
▶ January 16
Djokovic’s lawyers appealed to reverse Hawke’s ruling, but a three-judge panel unanimously ruled in favour of it, officially deporting the Serbian from the country one day before the start of the Australian Open. In a statement released, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” but “respects the court’s ruling,” before taking a flight to Dubai.
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▶ Was this decision correct?
This decision is a major setback for Djokovic’s quest to win a 10th Australian Open title and seal a record 21st Grand Slam crown, making him the most successful tennis player in history. Djokovic’s lawyers stated that the immigration minister’s decision was ‘illogical, irrational and unreasonable’ and was based on Djokovic’s public stance on vaccination without actually seeking out the Serbian’s views.
Ultimately, there are no winners from this distasteful saga. While Djokovic could have avoided all this trouble by simply taking the vaccine, the Serbian also has nowhere to hide after providing incorrect information on his travel documents and opting to go for a photoshoot and interview despite testing positive for Covid-19.
However, the Australian Government has also damaged their reputation with this fiasco, with this entire situation revealing their dysfunctional visa cancellation and detention regimes for refugees and the extraordinary powers afforded to an immigration minister.
[Featured Image Credit: i Sport]