World Djokovic detained ahead of Australian visa appeal
Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Held in Guarded Room in Australia After Reported Visa Mix-Up
Djokovic announced Tuesday that he had received a medical exemption to COVID vaccine requirements that would allow him to play in the upcoming Australian Open. © Juan Naharro/Getty Images for Lexus Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a backhand against Marin Cilic of Croatia during the Davis Cup Semi Final match between Croatia and Serbia at Madrid Arena pavilion Monday in Madrid, Spain. Djokovic is reportedly being held in a room without being allowed to leave while an issue with his visa and a COVID vaccine medical exemption is figured out.
Novak Djokovic has been detained in Australia ahead of a court hearing that will determine whether the tennis star can stay in the country unvaccinated.
The Serbian faces deportation after his visa was cancelled for a second time, with the government labelling the 34-year-old a threat to the public.
His lawyers are appealing against what they called an "irrational" judgement, with the hearing due on Sunday.
Djokovic, however, is still scheduled to play the Australian Open on Monday.
If he were to win the tournament for a tenth time, he would become the most successful men's tennis player in the history of the sport.
Explainer: Why Novak Djokovic was not let into Australia
Top-ranked men’s tennis player had visa cancelled after arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open.He might not get the chance to pursue that mark at the Australian Open when play begins in Melbourne on January 17.
But Sunday's hearing, which has been scheduled for 09:30 local time (22:30 GMT on Saturday) is crucial if Djokovic is to be able to defend his title just hours later.
If he loses the appeal, the world men's tennis number one faces deportation and a three-year visa ban.
On Saturday, shortly after an online procedural hearing, Djokovic's lawyers confirmed that he had been detained by immigration officers in Melbourne.
Video: Djokovic supporters celebrate his court win in Australia (Reuters)
At the hearing, Justice David O'Callaghan set the time for Sunday's proceeding but said it was yet to be decided whether it would be heard by a single judge or a full court of three.
Djokovic's detention becomes political issue in Australia
SYDNEY (AP) — On a tennis court, Novak Djokovic’s timing is perfect. But when he arrived in Australia to play the first Grand Slam of the year holding documents allowing him to enter the country without a COVID-19 vaccine, his timing hardly could have been worse. When Djokovic landed in Melbourne on Wednesday he found himself in a city beset by surging virus cases. Border officials rejected Djokovic’s documentation, cancelled his visa and ordered him out of the country in a move that many Australians cheered. The tennis star's outspoken opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine struck a wrong note in a city where 92% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Djokovic's visa was first revoked shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on 6 January, after Australian Border Force officials said he had "failed to provide appropriate evidence" to receive a vaccine exemption.
The tennis star was detained for days at an immigration hotel, before his visa was reinstated by a judge, who ordered his release, ruling that border officials ignored correct procedure when he arrived.
But on Friday evening, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke once again cancelled Djokovic's visa under separate powers in Australia's Migration Act.
The act allows him to deport anyone he deems a potential risk to "the health, safety or good order of the Australian community".
Mr Hawke said he had cancelled Djokovic's visa "on health and good order grounds [and] on the basis that it was in the public interest".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision followed "careful consideration".
Alluding to the heavy criticism his government has faced for allowing the unvaccinated player into Australia, Mr Morrison said: "Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected."
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic condemned the move, telling the 34-year old in an Instagram message: "Novak, we stand by you."
"If you wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne why didn't you return him immediately, why didn't you tell him 'it is impossible to obtain a visa'?" Mr Vucic added.
How Novak Djokovic could be barred from playing in French Open .
Under the new rules, athletes without a vaccine pass cannot compete in France. Professional athletes, regardless of nationality, will now have to show their credentials and present a vaccine pass to access sports venues, France’s Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu told reporters on Monday.