Novak Djokovic responds after court rejects visa cancellation appeal

Novak Djokovic, pictured here leaving the Park Hotel government detention facility in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic departs from the Park Hotel government detention facility in Melbourne. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Novak Djokovic has accepted his fate and is set to be deported from Australia after an appeal against the cancellation of his visa was rejected in court.

The three-judge panel of the Federal Court ruled unanimously against the tennis World No.1 on Sunday evening, after hearing his case in an extraordinary out-of-hours sitting earlier in the day.

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He has been ordered to pay the costs of the federal government in running the case, while judges did not provide reasons for their decisions but said they would do so in the coming days.

"I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open," Djokovic said in a statement.

"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.

"I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.

"Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me."

Djokovic returned to court on Sunday to fight an attempt to deport him because of what Immigration Minister Alex Hawke described as a perception that the top-ranked tennis player was a “talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment.”

Chief Justice James Allsop explained that the decision did not involve an appeal against the decision of the Australian government.

Instead it was a judicial review hearing focused on whether the government's decision was irrational or unreasonable in a way that made it unlawful, he explained.

"It is not part of the function of the court to decide upon the merits or wisdom of the decision," Chief Justice Allsop said.

Djokovic's lawyers had accused Mr Hawke of failing to consider the consequences of deporting the tennis star, in a last-ditch effort to fight the decision to cancel his visa for a second time.

Mr Hawke concluded that allowing Djokovic to stay in Australia could foster anti-vaccination sentiment, creating risks for public health and good order in the Australian community.

But Djokovic's lawyers told the court that Mr Hawke's decision was invalid because he only looked at the consequences of letting Djokovic stay in the country, and overlooked what would happen if he was deported.

Nicholas Wood SC said there was evidence before Mr Hawke showing it was actually the dispute over Djokovic's visa that was energising anti-vaxxers.

Mr Wood argued that it was the government's own actions - rather than anything Djokovic had said or done - that was stirring up anti-vaccine sentiment in the community.

Djokovic's lawyers also argued that Mr Hawke did not have enough evidence to conclude that Djokovic is personally opposed to vaccination.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here ahead of the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic returned to court on Sunday to fight the cancellation of his visa. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

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Djokovic spent Saturday night in an immigration detention hotel after he and his lawyers met with immigration officials earlier in the day.

Television footage showed the 34-year-old Serb wearing a face mask as he sat in a vehicle near the hotel on Sunday morning.

Djokovic's visa was cancelled for a second time on Friday which after it was originally revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on January 5.

Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that may be waived depending on the circumstances.

Reigning champion Djokovic was slated to play in the Australian Open's first round on Monday evening, but he will now likely be taken back to Melbourne's Park Hotel to be detained ahead of deportation.

The Serbian star will now miss the chance to claim a men's record 21st grand slam title. He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal on 20.

Only Nadal will play the Melbourne Park grand slam with a chance to claim the record for himself, with Federer sidelined after a latest round of knee surgery in 2021.

World No.150 Salvatore Caruso will replace Djokovic in the men's singles draw.

with agencies

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