Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday evening after losing his final bid to avoid leaving. His lawyers failed to convince three senior judges of his right to stay in Melbourne and play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated. The tennis star has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, but this time won't even get the chance to try.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion said he was 'extremely disappointed' at the outcome of the case, but that he 'respected' the court's decision and would co-operate with authorities.
Djokovic was seen upon arrival at Melbourne's airport and left on an Emirates flight to Dubai.
The Serbian national said he was "uncomfortable that the focus had been on him since his visa was first cancelled on arrival at Melbourne’s airport on January 6. "I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love."
A deportation order also usually includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia, though it has not yet been decided whether this will be applied in Djokovic's case.
In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic said the hearing was "a farce’’ and accused Australian prime minister Scott Morrison of playing politics ahead of an upcoming election. ‘‘You saw in the pointless court proceeding how much the prosecution lied,’’ he said. ‘‘They are simply lying. They say there are fewer than 50 per cent vaccinated people in Serbia and officially the number is 58 per cent.’’ As against this, Australia has a vaccination rate of 92.5 per cent.
More than 83,000 people were tuned in to the Federal Court livestream of the proceedings.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made a scathing remark in the aftermath of the decision. ‘‘This tournament, this Grand Slam tournament – one of the big four – is much bigger than any one person,’’ he said. ‘‘It's very simple, just get vaccinated. And then everyone's time wouldn't have to be wasted with this.’’
Djokovic insisted he was 'not an expert' and would do what was best for his body, after indicating he wouldn't want to be 'forced' to take a Covid vaccine well before a jab to protect against the virus had even been developed.
By his own admission, Djokovic failed to heed the advice of his own government after testing positive to Covid, meeting with a journalist and posing for a photo without his mask just days after returning a positive test.
The Serbian President said he told Djokovic after talking to him "that we can't wait to see him in Serbia, to return to his country, to come where he is always welcome." He did not say whether Djokovic said he would first go to Serbia after his deportation.
Infection rates have soared across much of Australian since December when Morrison's government relaxed what had been some of the democratic world's toughest restrictions on international travel