Novak Djokovic: What we know about tennis star's Australian visa saga
Just after midnight in Australia, Novak Djokovic tweeted a picture from Rod Laver Arena along with three members of his coaching team. Finally free from the detention facility where he had spent the previous few days, Djokovic was back on court in Melbourne, beginning preparations for the Australian Open.
After an ordeal that began last week when his visa was canceled at the border, Djokovic won a court challenge on Monday allowing him to enter the country. But that’s not necessarily the end of Djokovic’s issues as he tries to win his 21st Grand Slam title.
Here’s what we know so far:
Novak Djokovic wins in court
After the Australian Border Force deemed Djokovic’s case for entering the country without a COVID-19 vaccination insufficient, Djokovic had the option to either leave immediately or challenge the decision in court.
Given what was on the line and his belief that he had a right to be in the country based on the procedures as he understood them, Djokovic decided to fight. Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly overturned the cancelation of his visa on procedural grounds, essentially ruling that the border official in charge of the decision had acted unreasonably.
Djokovic’s attorneys successfully argued that border officials originally gave him until the morning to rest and speak to lawyers and Tennis Australia officials.
Because Djokovic arrived after midnight and spent several hours overnight being questioned at the airport, it was difficult for him to reach people who could help him through the process. He was also tired and confused about why his documents were insufficient because he believed he had taken the proper steps to be able to enter the country without being vaccinated.
Djokovic had received an exemption from Tennis Australia in conjunction with the state of Victoria to be in Melbourne and get around the vaccine requirements.
Ultimately, the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa at 7:42 a.m. last Thursday rather than give him until 8:30 a.m. as originally agreed upon made the difference in the judge’s decision.
"If the applicant had until 8:30 a.m., he could have consulted others and made submissions to (the border official) about why his visa should not be cancelled."
Will jokovic play the Australian Open?
Djokovic is free for now, but Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has the power under Australian law to cancel his visa again, which would potentially trigger a three-year ban from the country. From a tennis standpoint, the stakes of that decision are sky high since the 34-year old Djokovic may not have that many more chances to win the Australian Open in the first place.
A spokesperson for Hawke's office said he was considering his options and a decision could come Tuesday. If Djokovic’s visa is canceled a second time, this saga could wind up right back in court.
More questions arise about Djokovic’s COVID-19 test
Djokovic applied for the vaccine exemption on the grounds that he had contracted COVID-19 within the past six months. During this story, there has been a lot of back-and-forth debate between the federal and state government over whether that was acceptable grounds for entry into the country.
Regardless, Djokovic produced a certificate at the border showing that he was tested for COVID-19 in Serbia early in the afternoon on Dec. 16 and returned a positive result just after 8 p.m. that evening.
Despite purportedly being positive for COVID-19, Djokovic was photographed without a mask on Dec. 17 attending an award ceremony for kids at his tennis center. On Dec. 18, he did a photoshoot in Belgrade with the French publication L’Equipe.
That sequence of events raises a lot of questions. After Djokovic's release, his family held a press conference in Serbia. When asked about his public appearances on Dec. 17 and 18, his brother Djordje Djokovic ended the press conference.