Monday, January 24, 2022

Djokovic will return to custody ahead of the appeal on Saturday morning

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Novak Djokovic will return to a detention center at 8am local time on Saturday after the Australian government tried to revoke his visa again.

The Serb was not arrested on Friday night following the decision by Immigration Secretary Alex Hawke. On Saturday evening, however, he is expected to stay again at the Park Hotel on the outskirts of Melbourne.

The 34-year-old will first meet with immigration officials before talks with his lawyers to finalize plans for his appeal.

Djokovic must then remain in a detention center before the appeal hearing on Sunday, just hours before he is expected to play his 2022 Australian Open first-round match against compatriot Miomir Kecmanović.

Therefore, even if he wins, there must be big question marks as to whether, despite his famed resilience, he will be in the right physical and mental shape to compete in a Grand Slam.

The Morrison Government is strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hawke’s legal representative, meanwhile, said the minister would not attempt to deport Djokovic until the procedure was complete and raised the possibility he could still be sent home mid-tournament.

In his statement, Hawke said: “Today I exercised my authority under Section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa on grounds of health and good order as it was in the public interest, do so.

“This decision follows orders from the Federal Circuit and Family Court dated January 10, 2022, overturning a previous annulment decision on procedural fairness grounds.

“In making this decision I have carefully considered the information provided to me by the Home Office, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.

“Morrison’s government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The decision means Djokovic also faces a three-year ban from the country, which could mean he never plays at the Australian Open again, although that can be waived.

The situation has dominated global news since Djokovic was arrested at Melbourne Airport last Thursday morning after Border Force officers concluded he did not have the correct paperwork to enter the country.

The nine-time Australian Open champion, who is unvaccinated, had been granted an exemption to strict coronavirus vaccination rules for arrival in the country by Tennis Australia after testing positive last month.

Two other people – Czech player Renata Voracova and an official – with the same exception were later told they could not stay in the country and left before Judge Kelly ruled in Djokovic’s favor on Monday.

Unexpectedly, Djokovic’s attorney, Nick Wood, told the hearing that Hawke’s decision was not based on the validity of the exemption, his threat to public health, or concerns about his conduct or character, but rather the potential for “exciting anti-vax sentiment” on the Based on two statements he made in 2020 and the impact on public policy.

Djokovic drove straight to Melbourne Park after being extricated from the hotel on Monday and has been training every day since, including early Friday morning, but his hopes of staying in the country seemed to have faded later in the week after revelations about his behaviour dwindle

Documents showed Djokovic tested positive in Serbia on December 16, but he was photographed at events over the following two days and issued a statement earlier this week admitting to an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe to have competed at his tennis center in Belgrade, despite knowing he had the virus.

He also admitted his declaration form falsely claimed he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his trip to Australia, which he attributed to a mistake made by his agent.

There has been heavy criticism of the way the Australian government has handled the situation, but public opinion was adamant that Djokovic be sent home.

Sympathy was also scant among his teammates, many of whom were skeptical about taking the vaccine. World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas told Indian news channel WION: “A very small group have decided to go their own way and it kind of makes sense. The majority looks like they’re all idiots.”

Andy Murray struck a more forgiving tone after beating Reilly Opelka in Sydney, saying: “It’s not a good situation. I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak while he’s down. It’s not a good situation for anyone.

“I just want it to be resolved obviously. I think it would be good for everyone if that were the case. It just seems like it’s dragging on for quite a while now and it’s not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.

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