Novak Djokovic 'extremely disappointed' as judges kick anti-vax tennis star out of Australia over visa

Novak Djokovic 'extremely disappointed' as judges kick anti-vax tennis star out of Australia over visa

NOVAK Djokovic has spoken of his "extreme disappointment" following the stunning decision of Australian judges to uphold his deportation from the country.

The Serbian tennis ace has spent the past week embroiled in a row over his Covid vaccine status, which has led to the 34-year-old losing not only his chance of defending his Australian Open title, but also facing a three-year ban from Australia.

In a statement, the tennis ace said he was "extremely disappointed" with the ruling, but said he would "cooperate" with it and leave the country.

He added that he was "uncomfortable" with the focus on him in recent weeks, and said: "I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love."

Djokovic went on to thank his family, friends, fans, and "fellow Serbians" for their support.

He's one of just three players inside the ATP’s top 100 who have not been vaccinated.

Three judges unanimously dismissed his last-ditch appeal to stay Down Under and play.

The star could now be frog-marched to the airport under armed guard, it's believed.


Djokovic met with immigration officials and Border Force for a secret showdown at an undisclosed location yesterday before government lawyers later argued he poses an "overwhelming risk" to the public.

They claim this was demonstrated by his decision to attend work events while infected with Covid.

It has been a costly 10 days in Australia for the 20-time Grand Slam winner, who now faces having to pay his own legal fees as well as those of the Australian government, while also missing out on a £2.32m potential windfall for winning the Open.

Djokovic met with at least 25 kids at three events in Serbia while positive for the virus, and faces jail for flouting isolation rules, it's reported. He said he didn't receive the results of his test until after the meetings.

"The Commonwealth should not be bound to suffer the presence of an alien for fear of what might happen if they were removed," Aus lawyer Stephen Lloyd said last night.


"Rightly or wrongly, he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view."

However, the ace's legal team hit back – and rebuffed claims that he has a "well-known stance on vaccination".

Nick Wood, representing Djokovic, said comments he made about vaccines in April 2020 are not necessarily relevant – and he has not publicly aligned himself with either those in favour of jabs or those against.

The legal eagle said the star is "not an expert" and would do what's best for his body, Mr Wood said – adding that the minister who ordered Djokovic out is "not permitted to cancel a visa based on an evidence-free figment of his imagination."

The saga over Djokovic's jab status began when his visa was revoked when he first landed in Aus.

The Serbian 20-time Grand Slam champ was given his marching orders following a six-hour stand-off at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport.

News from the courtroom:

  • Three judges have unanimously decided Djokovic doesn't have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's deportation order
  • The tennis ace's legal team failed in their bid to prove Mr Hawke acted irrationally or legally unreasonably
  • Justice Allsop said he accepted Djokovic could be seen as "an iconic sports star that is setting an example that is not ideal to be followed" over his anti-vaxxer status
  • Lawyers for the government argued the star poses an "overwhelming risk" to the Australian public after he met with Serbian children while infected with Covid
  • It's not yet known whether Djokovic will be banned from applying for an Australian visa for the next three years

He had initially been granted a vaccine exemption – his lawyers said, because he contracted Covid-19 in December – to compete before his visa was dramatically cancelled.

Djokovic was rushed to an immigration hotel, despite pleading to be moved to more elaborate digs with a tennis court or to have his private chef provide vegan meals – requests which were denied.

A judge then ordered his passport to be handed back – saying he was "agitated" about the case and asking: "What more could this man have done?"

However, in a twist, Djokovic was reportedly arrested as the government revoked his visa again.

His supporters were pepper-sprayed by cops in the street after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his powers on "health and good order" grounds.

Djokovic's legal team appealed the decision overnight.

But their pleas for him to remain in Australia were overruled, and he'll likely be escorted to the airport and forced aboard a plane home today.


Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O'Callaghan unanimously decided Djokovic did not have grounds to dispute Hawke's deportation order. 

Justice Allsop earlier said he accepted Djokovic could be seen as "an iconic sports star that is setting an example that is not ideal to be followed".

"If Mr Djokovic won the Open, as he has in the past, there is an example embedded in the minister's reasoning that this is an example for young and not so young fans of tennis," he said.

Government officials have not yet said whether they'll take up their option to ban Djokovic from applying for a visa to enter the country again for the next three years.

The star has faced huge backlash from Australians, who have been split on the decision to detain him.

More than 83,000 people tuned in to the Federal Court livestream of the proceedings to watch the showdown, while his supporters gathered in the streets outside.

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He has not openly spoken about his jab status, but has previously admitted he was “opposed” to vaccination.

He told reporters: "Personally I am opposed to vaccination.

"I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel."

Timeline to deportation

Jan 4: Djokovic told fans on social media he was on his way to the Australian Open under a medical exemption, writing on Instagram: "I've spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I'm heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let's go 2022!!"

Jan 5: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Djokovic he will be on the "next plane home" if his medical exemption is deemed insufficient

Jan 5: Djokovic's visa is cancelled upon his arrival in Melbourne. The Australian Border Force announces that the player "failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia".

Jan 6: Djokovic is sent to the Park Hotel in Melbourne after being refused a visa. He launches an appeal, which is adjourned until January 10. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic says Djokovic is the victim of "persecution".

Jan 9: Djokovic's lawyers claim he was granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he recorded a positive Covid-19 test in Serbia on December 16. However, social media posts suggest he attended a number of social events in the days following his apparent diagnosis.

Jan 10: Djokovic's visa cancellation is quashed by Judge Anthony Kelly, who orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half-an-hour.

Jan 12: Djokovic admits making an "error of judgement" by attending an interview with a French journalist while Covid positive. He adds that, although he attended a children's tennis event the day after being tested, he did not receive notification of the positive test until after the event.

Jan 13: Djokovic is drawn to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Jan 14: Immigration minister Minister Alex Hawke cancels Djokovic's visa for a second time, saying in a statement it was "on health and good order grounds".

Jan 15: Djokovic's lawyers have a minor win in court, with the judge agreeing to have the matter heard by a panel of three judges on Sunday – a decision fiercely opposed by the government 

Jan 16: Djokovic LOSES his appeal and is told he will be deported.

Reporting by PA

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