Novak Djokovic in limbo as Australian visa canceled again

(MELBOURNE) — Novak Djokovic will not be deported or detained on Friday night, but the world’s No.1 tennis player will need to attend an interview with immigration officials in Melbourne at 8 a.m. local time on Saturday — two days before he’s expected to start defending his title at the Australian Open.

A late-night emergency hearing was held at the Australian Federal Circuit and Family Court on Friday, after Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used ministerial powers to cancel his visa again.

Australian authorities on Friday had canceled tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa, putting his participation in the Australian Open in doubt.

“Today I exercised my power… to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” Hawke said in a statement.

It could mean that he is banned from entering Australia for up to three years.

Hawke’s decision arrived days after an Australian court reinstated the 34-year-old’s visa, which had been granted with a medical exemption to Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

But on Friday night, Judge Anthony Kelly decided to move the case to the Federal Court of Australia in order to secure “a quick, inexpensive final determination of this proceeding.”

For now, Djokovic can remain where he is staying, but he will be taken into detention after an interview with immigration officials at an undisclosed location on Saturday morning. He will then be escorted by two Border Force officials to his lawyers’ office, then is due to go back into detention until Sunday’s hearing.

Djokovic’s team said they will challenge the reasons for canceling his visa — including the claim that allowing Djokovic to stay on would “excite” anti-vaccine activists in Australia.

Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood, told the court that Minister Hawke’s reasoning was “patently irrational” and argued that Djokovic was “in good standing.”

“The reasons of the minister stand in stark contrast to the reasons that the delegate at the airport was saying,” Wood said.

Djokovic’s spokespeople said they want the procedure to move as quickly as possible because every minute before the tournament commences is “precious.”

“We are very concerned about time,” said Wood.

Questions had still lingered, however, about whether Djokovic lied on his Travel Declaration Form. Every traveler arriving in Australia needs to submit the document before entering the country.

At issue were the few weeks prior to Djokovic’s landing in Australia on Jan. 5 from Spain via Dubai. Under Australia’s pandemic measures, the tennis star would have had to stay in Spain for at least 14 days before travelling.

Djokovic on his entry form ticked the box saying he hadn’t traveled during that period. Social media seemed to tell a different story, with at least one post suggesting Djokovic had been in Serbia during those 14 days.

Hawke on Wednesday told ABC News: “Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa. Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision.”

The Australian Open begins on Jan. 17. Djokovic has won the tournament the last three years and nine times overall.

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