Does Djokovic still have a chance to feature in Australian Open if his visa is cancelled?

World No.1 Novak Djokovic. — Reuters
World No.1 Novak Djokovic. — Reuters

Melbourne - The world No.1 still faces the prospect of deportation because his exemption from Covid-19 vaccination rules has been questioned


Published: Wed 12 Jan 2022, 7:14 PM

Novak Djokovic, the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion, remains in limbo before the year’s first tennis major starts next Monday. The stakes are particularly high since he is seeking a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

The unvaccinated star won a legal battle on procedural grounds on Monday that allowed him to stay in the country, but he still faces the prospect of deportation because his exemption from Covid-19 vaccination rules has been questioned.

That decision is entirely at the discretion of Australia’s immigration minister if deemed to be in the public interest for health and safety reasons.

Deportation could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

Australia-based lawyer Greg Barns, who is experienced in visa cases, said the immigration minister has the “personal power” to cancel the visa without having to give written notice or a reasonable time for Novak Djokovic to respond.

If Djokovic’s visa is cancelled, his lawyers could go back to court to apply for an injunction that would prevent him from being forced to leave the country.

If the government decides instead to first give notice, Barns said it could give Djokovic up to nine days to respond.

“That might be a way of giving Djokovic a chance in the tournament (Australian Open) and then kicking him out at the end of that,” Barns said.

Sydney-based immigration lawyer Simon Jeans said there’s “a lot of fudges” in the law and the immigration department would be taking its time to make sure any visa cancellation was “appeal-proof.”

“It’s not an easy task because if they cancel his visa and then Djokovic wins (an appeal) and he misses the opportunity to compete, he could make a claim against the department for the prize money and all his legal fees,” Jeans said.

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