Just days before the Australian Open is set to start, top player Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked once again, and faces deportation over his COVID-19 vaccination status.
On Friday, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said he used ministerial discretion to cancel Djokovic’s visa on the grounds of public interest, according to Fox News.
"Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act 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.
"The decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds," Hawke continued, according to Sky Sports. "In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic."
"The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison commented on the decision, stating: "They rightly expect the result of those sacrifices (Australians have made) to be protected. The pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods."
"Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic," he continued.
"This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today. Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic."
The star tennis player has not received the COVID-19 vaccination. Those attending the Australian Open, whether as an athlete or a spectator, need to be vaccinated unless they receive a medical exemption.
"A medical exemption was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australian, allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. However, the Australian Border Force rejected the medical exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on Jan 5," Fox News reported.
Djokovic was stuck in a Melbourne Immigration hotel until a judge reversed the decision on January 10, 2022. The 20-time major champion then was picked as the No. 1 seed for the tennis tournament. He was able to practice at Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Open on Monday.
"It’s not a good situation for anyone. Just want it obviously to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now — not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak," British tennis star Andy Murray said.
"The reason why this has taken so long is I think the Australian government, the immigration office will be expecting an appeal from the very active Novak Djokovic lawyers in downtown Melbourne.
"One of the grounds for an appeal here would probably be proportionality. Now is saying that you haven't travelled anywhere before coming to Australia good grounds for revoking a visa? These are the sorts of questions. The reason I raise that is that that is the next step and how long will it take?"
If forced to pull from the event before the order of play is announced for Day 1, "Grand Slam rules state No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia would move into his spot to face Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia," according to Fox News.
If he is forced to withdraw after the schedule is released, his spot will be filled by a so-called "lucky loser," which is a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but gets into the main draw because of another player’s dropout.
Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone suggested that Djokovic's legal team would be fighting an uphill battle to overturn the decision ahead of competition on Monday if they decide to challenge the decision.
"For Djokovic to get the outcomes he needs to play would be extremely difficult to obtain over the weekend," said Bone, according to Sky Sports.
Djokovic potentially faces a three-year ban on traveling to the country if deported, with grounds for return during this period being reliant on "compelling circumstances that affect the national interest."