Novak Djokovic is no longer free to come and go as he pleases. As expected, the Serbian player was returned to administrative detention, under the control of the border police, this Saturday morning, according to local media. A procedural hearing was scheduled to take place in the morning, pending the final decision on a possible expulsion this Sunday by a federal court, 24 hours before the start of the Australian Open.
Djokovic, not vaccinated against Covid-19, continued training on Friday in the hope of winning a 10th Australian Open title, and a 21st Grand Slam victory, which would be a record. This Saturday, the Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal considered that “the Australian Open is much more important than any player”, while saying that he “disagrees with a lot of things that he [Djokovic] has done in the past two weeks.
Judicial ping pong
Hours earlier, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke canceled the Serb’s Australian visa for the second time. The minister estimated, in a document presented to the courts, that the presence in Australia of Djokovic “could encourage anti-vaccination sentiment” and “trigger an upsurge in civil unrest”. According to court documents, Novak Djokovic, who had been summoned in the morning by the immigration services, is this Saturday in a detention center in Melbourne pending a court decision on his case.
Referral hearings are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in federal court, and authorities said Friday evening that they would not expel the tennis player from Australia before the judges have ruled. The player is only authorized to leave the detention center to follow, online, the legal hearings concerning him from the offices of his lawyers, and under the surveillance of border police officers.
It is the Australian federal justice which is now in charge of the case, at the request of the Melbourne judge on Friday who had been seized in the first place by the tennis player’s lawyers. This change of court is likely to slow down the procedure, estimated the defenders of Djokovic. Will the player finally throw in the towel? “Djokovic is extremely well armed and has a competent team around him. He can either stay and fight or go,” said immigration lawyer Christopher Levingston.
” Human error “
Djokovic has admitted to incorrectly filling out his declaration of entry into Australia, and not having respected the rules of isolation after he tested positive for Covid-19 in December – a contamination which he hoped would allow him to benefit from an exemption to enter Australia without being vaccinated. Djokovic, who traveled to Spain in the two weeks before his arrival contrary to what he declared in the immigration form, pleaded “human error”.
“Nole” had requested a waiver to enter Australia, citing Covid-19 contamination in December, but his visa was canceled for the first time upon his arrival in Melbourne on January 5 and he was placed in a detention center. His lawyers had obtained from a judge on January 10 that he reinstate his visa and order his immediate release, but the document was again canceled on Friday by the Minister of Immigration under his discretionary power.
The dreams of a 10th title in Melbourne are all the more distant as this visa cancellation, if the appeal is rejected, implies that Djokovic will be banned from entering the country for three years, except in exceptional circumstances.