Djokovic trains in Australia after visa reinstatement

Serbian fans and anti-vaccine protesters discuss with refugee supporters outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne on January 8.

(Bloomberg) – Novak Djokovic can stay in Australia and compete for a record 21 Grand Slam tournaments won after a court overturned the cancellation of his visa and ordered his immediate release from the hotel where he was being held.

Judge Anthony Kelly said the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player did not have enough time to fully respond after officials notified him Thursday morning that he did not have sufficient evidence to enter the country under current regulations around to the covid. In the decision on Monday afternoon through a virtual hearing, the judge ordered the government to pay the costs of the star and release him.

The circumstances Djokovic faced were “unreasonable,” the judge said. If the tennis player had had more time, “he could have consulted others and presented documents” to the authorities “about why his visa should not be canceled,” he said.

Djokovic said he would stay in the country and try to compete.

“I’m still focused on that,” he said on Twitter. “I traveled here to participate in one of the most important events that we have, in front of incredible fans.”

The government’s legal advisor warned that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could still separately exercise his own power to go ahead with the visa cancellation, despite the ruling. He had previously warned about that possible outcome in documents filed Sunday.

“Novak will abide by all decisions that are made,” his younger brother, Djordje Djokovic, told reporters in Belgrade, Serbia. The tennis star went to training after his release, he said.

Djokovic was being held in a Melbourne hotel detaining refugees after border authorities revoked a vaccination exemption from the state of Victoria that allowed him to play in the tournament.

The news of the exemption caused quite a stir in a country where more than 90% of adults have completed their vaccination schedule and where the population has endured some of the toughest restrictions in the world during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison supported the subsequent attempt to deport the player after his arrival in Australia. Djokovic’s lawyers argued that he was granted a valid exemption following a positive COVID test on December 16, but the federal government rejected it. He noted that tournament organizers were told that a recent infection would not allow anyone to avoid the Australian vaccination requirement and receive an entry visa.

On Saturday, the country reported for the first time more than 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day, while infections in Victoria doubled to 51,356.

Djokovic has already won the Australian Open nine times, which kicks off on January 17.

The tennis player arrived in Australia on Wednesday night local time and was questioned at Melbourne airport for hours before Border Force officials decided to cancel his visa. The player’s confusion and frustration during the interviews was highlighted in a transcript released shortly after Monday’s court decision.

“I’m really a bit surprised to be in this situation, because how am I supposed to come to Australia if I don’t have these documents, which are official documents?” Djokovic said in the transcript.

In a 35-page document released on Saturday, his lawyers said that on January 1, the player had received a document from the Australian Department of the Interior stating that the exemption would allow him to enter the country.

“Mr Djokovic understood that he was authorized to enter Australia and Victoria and compete in the Australian Tennis Open,” the attorneys wrote.

In its response, the Australian ministry rejected Djokovic’s “so-called ‘medical exemption’” and said that “there is no guarantee of entry to Australia for a non-citizen visitor”.

The 34-year-old Djokovic said in 2020 that he was personally opposed to vaccines, but later clarified that he was not an expert and would make the right decision for him.

“I would not like to be forced to get vaccinated in order to travel,” Djokovic said in 2020, months before the first coronavirus vaccines were available.

Original Note:

Djokovic Trains for Australia Open After Court Reinstates Visa

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