Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Recep Sakar / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Australian government canceled that of Novak Djokovic visa for the second time on Friday as he sought to expel the tennis superstar after arriving in the country without a Covid-19 vaccine.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said he had acted for “reasons of health and good order on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hawke said in a statement.
The cancellation effectively means that Djokovic would be banned from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except in certain circumstances.
The visa decision jeopardized the Serbian world number one’s dream of a 10th Australian Open title and a 21st Grand Slam record.
Djokovic is the seed of the tournament and had trained on the courts at Melbourne Park hours earlier.
The megastar traveled to Melbourne airport on January 5 to claim a vaccine exemption due to a positive PCR test result on December 16.
‘All the fools’
Border officials rejected his exemption, tore up his visa and took him to a notorious Melbourne detention center where he spent four nights.
The Australian government insists that a recent infection does not constitute a vaccine exemption for foreign nationals attempting to enter the country.
Djokovic’s senior legal team drastically overturned the visa decision because border officials at the airport had not given him the agreed time to respond.
The visa battle with Djokovic is a politically charged one in Australia, which has suffered nearly two years from some of the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions.
General elections are due to be called in May.
Some tennis players say Djokovic should now be allowed to play, but not all have been in favor.
World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas criticized his behavior.
“Of course he played by his own rules,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with Indian broadcaster WION.
Almost everyone at the Australian Open had been vaccinated, Tsitsipas said. But others “have chosen to go their own way, which gives the majority the impression that they are all fools.”
As the Omicron variant passed through the Australian population, Djokovic’s actions came under closer scrutiny.
The tennis ace called reports of post-infection mask-less releases in Serbia “misinformation” in an Instagram post on Wednesday.
On the day of his alleged positive test in Serbia, he attended a ceremony to pay tribute to him with stamps in his image. The next day he attended a youth tennis event. He appeared to the two apparently without a mask.
Djokovic said he only received the PCR test result after going to the children’s tennis event on December 17.
But he admitted he also gave an interview to French sports daily L’Equipe on December 18.
“On second thought, it was an error in judgment and I accept that I should have postponed this engagement,” said Djokovic.
The journalist who conducted the L’Equipe interview, Franck Ramella, said he was unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was positive for Covid.
The tennis star also admitted to making an error in his travel report to Australia, in which a box was checked indicating that he did not or would not travel within 14 days before flying to Melbourne.
In fact, social media posts and reports show that he flew from Serbia to Spain during this period.
Djokovic blamed his support team for it. “My agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative error by checking the wrong box,” he said.
As Covid-related hospitalizations increase in Melbourne, the Victoria state government said on Thursday it would cap capacity at the Australian Open at 50%.