'Deeply disappointed': Djokovic loses final Australia visa appeal

An Australian court dismissed Novak Djokovic’s appeal against a deportation order on Sunday, dashing the top-ranked tennis star’s hopes of playing at the Australian Open.

Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister Alex Hawke to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds.

The judges dismissed the claims by Djokovic’s defence that the rationale for the cancellation was “invalid” and “illogical”.

The decision likely means that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported.

A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.

This also marks an end to the world tennis No. 1’s attempt to defend his Australian Open title and win a record 21st Grand Slam title.

In a brief statement after the verdict, Djokovic stated he was “deeply disappointed”, but also vowed to cooperate with the authorities.

“I will take some time to get some rest and recuperate before making further comments,” Djokovic said.

Hawke cancelled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may represent a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and could be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia.

Prime minister Scott Morrison welcomed what he described as the “decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe”.

The national federation that runs the tournament, Tennis Australia, said it respects the decision of the Federal Court. “We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all players the best of luck,” it said in a statement.

In Djokovic’s native Serbia, president Aleksandar Vučić stated the hearing was “a farce with a lot of lies”.

“They think that they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, but they actually humiliated themselves. If you said that the person who was not vaccinated has no right to enter, Novak would not come or would get vaccinated,” Vučić told reporters.

He said he told Djokovic “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 discussed whether he would first go to Serbia following his deportation.

Djokovic’s visa was initially cancelled on 6 January at Melbourne’s airport hours after he arrived to compete in the first Grand Slam of 2022.

A border official cancelled his visa after deciding Djokovic did not qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.