World No 1 and defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic denied entry into Australia at Melbourne; the Serb had flown to Australia with an "exemption permission" but the visa applied for did not allow for medical exemptions; Djokovic moved to quarantine; team launches appeal
Thursday 6 January 2022 08:21, UK
Novak Djokovic has been transported to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne after being denied entry into Australia, while court documents suggest his team have applied for an injunction against the visa cancellation.
In the early hours of Thursday morning Australia time, Djokovic was denied entry into the country after his visa was cancelled by border force officials at Melbourne airport.
After being held at the city's airport overnight, the 34-year-old was reportedly told he would be removed from the country later on Thursday.
Australia's Border Force confirmed Djokovic's visa had been revoked, while Djokovic's injunction request against the visa cancellation was listed for hearing at 4pm (0500 GMT) in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, according to court documents - a hearing which was later adjourned until 6pm (0700 GMT).
The saga has created an international incident with the Serbian president claiming harassment of its star player.
"There are no special cases, rules are rules," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a televised media briefing.
"We will continue to make the right decisions when it comes to securing Australian borders in relation to this pandemic," Morrison said.
Rafael Nadal has said Djokovic knew for months he could potentially face problems in Australia if he arrived without being vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Of course I don't like the situation that is happening," Nadal told reporters after winning his match at the Melbourne Summer Set ATP 250 tournament. "In some way I feel sorry for him.
"But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision."
The 35-year-old Nadal tested positive for COVID-19 last month after playing at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi. The Spaniard said he faced a "very challenging" few days.
Djokovic, who has publicly criticised mandatory vaccines, has refused to disclose his inoculation status and said he had been granted a medical exemption to compete in Australia.
"[It] Seems some rough situation," Nadal said. "It's normal that the people here in Australia get very frustrated with the case because they have been going through a lot of very hard lockdowns, and a lot of people were not able to come back home.
"I believe in what the people who knows about medicine say, and if the people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That's my point of view."
The world No 1 had announced on Tuesday that he was travelling to Australia on an "exemption permission", but after landing in Melbourne on Wednesday evening he was held in isolation after reportedly attempting to enter the country on a visa that does not permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated against Covid-19.
After being held for several hours in the airport, during which he was placed in isolation in a police-guarded room, the Serb's visa was cancelled on Thursday morning in Australia.
An Australian Border Force statement read: "The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.
"Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.
"The ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone."
|Djokovic announces he will be travelling to Australia with an 'exemption permission' on Tuesday, January 4.|
|While Djokovic is airborne, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the athlete will be on the "next plane home" if he cannot provide "acceptable proof" that his exemption is legitimate.|
|Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford highlights that the local government of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held, will not support Djokovic's visa application.|
|The world No 1 arrives at Melbourne Airport around 11.30pm on Wednesday, January 5.|
|Around 3.15am local time in Australia, Djokovic's father reports that his son is being held in isolation in Melbourne Airport.|
|At 5am local time, Goran Ivanisevic releases an image on social media of himself and Djokovic's physiotherapist seemingly waiting for the world No 1. The post is captioned, ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’.|
|Around 8.15am local time, Djokovic's visa confirmed to have been denied.|
|Djokovic moved to quarantine hotel while team appeal visa cancellation|
Shortly after the announcement, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison re-iterated that nobody was above the country's border rules.
"Mr Djokovic's visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to borders. No one is above these rules," he said in a tweet.
"Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant."
On Wednesday, Morrison had said Djokovic would be "on the next plane home" if his evidence for a Covid-19 vaccination exemption to play at the Australian Open was not satisfactory.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times, including the last three years. He is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 career Grand Slam titles.
Greg Hunt, Australia's Minister for Health, made it clear that if Djokovic does wish to try and stay in the country, he would need to follow the appropriate processes.
"It's a matter for him as to whether he wishes to appeal that," Hunt said in a statement. "But, if a visa is cancelled then somebody will have to leave the country."
Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic made his stance clear and criticised the manner in which the world No 1 had been treated.
"I just finished a phone conversation with Novak Djokovic," Vucic wrote on Instagram.
"I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him, and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the harassment of the best tennis player in the world in the shortest possible period.
"In accordance with all norms of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and truth."
Djokovic has not made public on what grounds his medical exemption had been. Tournament director Craig Tiley had said it would be "helpful" for the 34-year-old to clarify his situation on what exempts him from vaccination.
"We would love...Novak to talk about it and help us with it, but ultimately it's going to be up to him," Tiley told reporters. "We aren't in a position, even legally, to disclose other people's medical information."