Novak Djokovic made a speedy exit from Australia on Sunday night just hours after his last-ditch attempt to play at the Australian Open was rejected in court.
The tennis star accepted his fate and flew out of the country at 10.51pm on Sunday, unable to defend his title and facing the possibility of losing his place as the World's No.1 men's player.
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The Australian Open was kicking off in Melbourne on Monday without its men's champion, who was deported from the country following an extraordinary 11-day saga amid protests from back home in Serbia that he's been treated scandalously.
The nine-time Australian Open champion was expelled after his last-minute challenge to a decision to cancel his visa failed on Sunday, a three-judge panel of the Federal Court ruling unanimously against him.
Djokovic is believed to have boarded a 10.51pm flight to Dubai, however his final destination is unknown at this stage.
Radio host Shane McInnes shared photos of Djokovic in the airport lounge under the guard of Federal Police.
Novak Djokovic leaves the Marhaba lounge at Melbourne Airport for flight back to Europe. pic.twitter.com/Rg2D1XTTwW
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) January 16, 2022
Photos have also emerged of the Serbian star walking through the airport with his entourage before catching his flight.
Djokovic had been scheduled to begin his Australian Open title defence against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
But after five nights in a detention hotel, he wasted no time leaving the country.
There was an emotional outpouring of anger and support in Serbia, where the country's president Aleksandar Vukic urged him to come home and the prime minister Ana Brnabic called his treatment "scandalous".
“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of 10 days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves,” Vucic told a state media outlet.
“Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high.”
Djokovic's family added: "We had hoped that justice would prevail.
"That 'public interest' would not serve as a pretext for a decision that was eventually made."
Novak Djokovic releases statement before leaving Australia
The 20-time grand slam champion released a statement before his hasty exit.
"I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling," the 34-year-old said.
"I respect the Court's ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love."
Djokovic's bid to go one one clear of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with a 21st grand slam title is now in jeopardy.
If he chooses to stay unvaccinated, it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to contest the other three grand slams - Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open.
But the main show goes on with Nadal noting: "It's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt.
"But there is no one player in history that's more important than an event."
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