Djokovic’s trouble entering Australia has centred around his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19; the Serb is level on 20 Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and has won the Australian Open a record nine times; the tournament begins on Monday in Melbourne
Monday 17 January 2022 06:53, UK
Novak Djokovic has left Australia after judges upheld the government's cancellation of his visa and his deportation.
Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds.
The full reasons behind the court's unanimous ruling will be published in the "coming days".
There was the possibility of a further legal challenge but it was confirmed half an hour after the ruling that Djokovic was not seeking that option.
The player and his team arrived at Melbourne Airport for their flight home on Sunday evening local time.
Djokovic, whose trouble entering Australia has centred around his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, had been scheduled to begin his quest on Monday for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and 21st Grand Slam crown but has now been replaced in the draw.
He is now facing a potential three-year ban from travelling to Australia and will be permitted to return only in "compelling circumstances that affect the national interest".
Tennis Australia said it 'respects' the decision of the Federal Court and Djokovic's number one position in the draw has been filled by 'lucky loser' - Italian Salvatore Caruso.
In a statement via The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Djokovic said: "I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today's court hearing. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.
"I am extremely disappointed with the ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
I respect the court's ruling and I'll cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
"I respect the court's ruling and I'll cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
"Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me."
Sunday morning's appeal hearing followed Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision on Friday to cancel the world No 1's visa for a second time on the grounds of "health and good order".
Government lawyers argued that Djokovic risked whipping up anti-vaccination sentiment during Australia's worst outbreak of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
"This cancellation decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
"I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.
"I thank the Court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue. It's now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer."
The reaction was very different in Serbia, where President Aleksandar Vucic, said in a statement reported by Novosti: "I talked to Novak a while ago and I encouraged him and I told him that I can't wait for him to come to Serbia and return to his country, and to be where he is always welcome.
"They think that they humiliated Djokovic, but they humiliated themselves, and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eye with his head held high."
Djokovic's family blamed his deportation on "politics" and said "we will be here to share the blows he received".
Their statement said: "This was not just about sport, and playing in the first Grand Slam of the season, which Novak has dominated for a decade, but also politics and all the interests that prevailed in this case.
"Despite the scandalous behaviour towards Novak, we believed that sport would win.
"We believed that the fact confirmed by the court would be respected - that Novak has a valid visa, that justice will be served and that no 'public interests' will be an excuse for the decision made."
The saga leaves many questions for Tennis Australia, which pushed for exemptions to be available for players in Djokovic's position despite widespread public opposition.
In a brief statement, the organisation said: "Tennis Australia respects the decision of the Federal Court. We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all players the best of luck."
The ATP was stronger, describing what has played out over the last week and a half as a "deeply regrettable series of events" and said Djokovic's absence was "a loss for the game".
It remains to be seen where Djokovic will play next, with Australia far from the only country where he is likely to experience travel issues if he continues to refuse the vaccine.
|January 4 - Djokovic announces he will be travelling to Australia with an 'exemption permission'.
|January 5 - 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 local time.
|January 6 - Around 3.15am, Djokovic's father reports that his son is being held in isolation in Melbourne Airport.
|At 5am, Goran Ivanisevic releases an image on social media of himself and another member of Djokovic's team 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 is confirmed to have been denied by the Australian Border Force.
|Djokovic is moved to quarantine hotel while his legal team appeal visa cancellation.
|The appeal against his visa cancellation is adjourned until Monday (Jan 10) morning Australian time.
|January 7 - Australia Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says Djokovic is "free to leave any time" and is not being detained.
|Djokovic breaks silence in Instagram post on Friday, thanking his fans for their "continuous support".
|January 8 - Submission from Djokovic's lawyers on Saturday reveals positive Covid-19 test in December.
|January 9 - Home Affairs Minister Andrews has a submission to delay the hearing until Wednesday (Jan 12) rejected by Judge Anthony Kelly.
|Submission from Australian government lawyers says Djokovic had not been given an assurance he would be allowed to enter the country with his medical exemption.
|January 10 – Djokovic wins appeal. Judge Anthony Kelly quashes visa cancellation, and orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention.
|Djokovic takes to social media to confirm that he remains intent on competing at the Australian Open.
|January 12 - Djokovic posts on Instagram admitting to making an "error of judgement" by attending an interview and photoshoot with a French newspaper after testing positive for Covid-19 last month.
|January 14 - Novak Djokovic faces deportation after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time.
|January 15 - The case is transferred to the Federal Court of Australia and the appeal hearing is officially set for 9:30 local time on Sunday (Jan 16) morning.
|January 16 - Djokovic to be deported after losing federal court appeal
Djokovic, 34, spent Saturday night in an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne, having previously spent four nights detained after having his visa cancelled upon his arrival in Australia on January 5.
His visa was initially cancelled on the basis that it did not facilitate entry with the medical exemption he had been granted by Tennis Australia and Victoria State government. The exemption had been granted due to Djokovic having recently tested positive for Covid-19.
However, the nine-time Australian Open champion won his initial appeal against the ruling and having been released, was included in Thursday's first-round draw, in which he was matched with unseeded Serb Miomir Kecmanovic.
After winning his initial appeal, Djokovic admitted he made an "error of judgement" by attending an interview and photoshoot with a French newspaper after testing positive for Covid-19 last month, as well as addressing a false declaration on his travel form as a mistake made by his agent, which he put down as "human error" and "not deliberate".
There has been criticism of the way the Australian government has handled the situation but public opinion has been firmly in favour of Djokovic being sent home.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has hit out at the Australian government, accusing it of "harassing" and "maltreating" Djokovic, and asking whether it is trying to score political points ahead of upcoming elections.
The final decision on Djokovic came little over 24 hours before the Australian Open was due to begin, with former British No 1 Andrew Castle believing the saga could have been sorted sooner.
"I think we'd be pretty naive not to think there were some politics at play here with the decision of the immigration minister in Australia to bring this to bear in the first place," Castle told Sky Sports News.
"83 per cent of Australians wanted him gone and gone he is. Never did a person leave a country more happily, perhaps, than Novak Djokovic.
"If anybody has made this bloke a martyr to the movement it's them, it's Tennis Australia, it's Victoria and it's the Australian government, as they've not been singing off the same hymn sheet at all.
"They've known that this massive event was coming and they definitely knew that Novak Djokovic had views which didn't necessarily align with the vast majority of players on Tour and people around the world. They knew that he has said he was a vaccine sceptic in the past, so they must have seen this coming.
"I'm not defending Novak's stance on that [vaccination], I just think legally he has been dealt a pretty rough hand here and I think the elections being four months away in Australia has played a big part in this.
"They can't get lateral flow tests at the moment and Omicron is just running rampant, so I understand where that pressure is coming from. Has he been treated the same? I think he might have been made a bit of a scapegoat."
The Australian Open is more important than a single player and will be a great tournament "with or without" Novak Djokovic, says Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard has made it clear on a number of occasions that he disagrees with Djokovic's resistance to the Covid-19 vaccination and the degree to which his ongoing visa battle has overshadowed the tournament is clearly a frustration to many.
Speaking at his pre-tournament press conference, Nadal said: "It's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt. But there is no one player in history that's more important than an event.
"Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he's playing finally, OK. If he's not playing, Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him."
Nadal added: "From my point of view, there is a lot of questions that need to be answered. In some ways I think it will be good if everything is clarified soon.
"Everyone chooses his road. I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I do not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks."