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Tennis

Updated on: Thursday, January 06, 2022, 08:45 PM IST

World no.1 Novak Djokovic faces prospects of spending weekend in immigration detention

World Number 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic | AFP

World Number 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic | AFP

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Novak Djokovic spent a day confined in an immigration detention hotel waiting for a court ruling and dealing with the prospect of deportation from Australia because of an issue with his visa application relating to COVID-19 vaccination regulations.

The 20-time major champion from Serbia will spend at least another night in immigration detention, probably even the weekend, with his chances of playing in this month's Australian Open in limbo.

With his visa canceled by Australian Border Force officials who rejected his evidence to support a medical exemption from the country's strict COVID-19 vaccination rules, Djokovic had to trade the practice courts for the law courts on Thursday.

Djokovic has not disclosed if he is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly adjourned Djokovic's case until Monday because of a delay in receiving the application for a review of the visa decisions and the temporary ban on his deportation. A lawyer for the government agreed the 34-year-old tennis player should not be deported before the next hearing.

Djokovic's trip was contentious before he landed, when it emerged the conservative federal government and the left-leaning state government of Victoria had differing views about what constituted acceptable grounds for an exemption to Australia's vaccination policy for visitors.

After announcing on social media Tuesday that he had "exemption permission," Djokovic landed in Melbourne late Wednesday thinking he had Victoria state approval that would shield him from the regulations requiring all players, fans and staff to be fully vaccinated to attend the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17.

That would have been okay to enter the tournament, but apparently not the country.

After a long-haul flight, Djokovic spent the night trying to convince the authorities he had all the necessary documentation, but the Australian Border Force issued a statement saying he failed to meet entry requirements.

"The rule is very clear," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"You need to have a medical exemption. He didn't have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that's where it's enforced." Health Minister Greg Hunt said the visa cancellation followed a review of Djokovic's medical exemption by border officials who looked "at the integrity and the evidence behind it."

Djokovic was transferred Thursday morning to a secure hotel controlled by immigration officials that also houses asylum seekers and refugees.

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Published on: Thursday, January 06, 2022, 08:44 PM IST
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