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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the decision to send Novak Djokovic home, with the World No.1 set to be deported after his visa was revoked by the Australian government.
Djokovic's long-running Australian Open saga took a stunning twist on Thursday when it emerged that his visa had been cancelled, following his arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday evening.
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The World No.1 intends to file an injunction in an attempt to stop the deportation.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Thursday that Djokovic would have to leave the country following the cancellation of his visa.
"The advice I have is that the ABF (Australian Border Force) can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia and his visa has been subsequently cancelled," Hunt told Channel 7.
"It's a matter for him whether he wishes to appeal that but if a visa is cancelled, somebody will have to leave the country
"That follows a review of the exemption which was provided through Victorian government processes."
Responding to the drama on Thursday, Australia's Prime Minister said while the rules might seem harsh for Djokovic and his supporters, they are in place to protect the Australian public.
"Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders," Mr Morrison tweeted.
"No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant."
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
In an extraordinary, escalating soap opera, the world's best men's player had been left stranded overnight in a police-guarded room at Melbourne Airport after a 14-hour flight from Dubai.
Djokovic may have been armed with the vaccination exemption that will allow him to compete in Melbourne but with a visa that did not allow for medical exemptions.
That prompted the Victorian government to say it would not support Djokovic's application, putting his fate in the hands of the federal government and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The situation left Djokovic's father Srdjan telling the Serbian B92 internet portal: "Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter. In front of the room are two policemen."
Djokovic's father also threatened to fight the injustice against his son by urging protesters to take to the streets if he wasn't released.
“This is a fight for the libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world. If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street. This is a fight for everyone," Srdjan Djokovic told Serbian media.
Even Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić weighed in on the drama and called for an end to the "harassment" of the World No.1.
"I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world's best tennis player is brought to an end immediately," the President's statement said.
Victoria would not support Novak Djokovic's visa application
The 34-year-old Djokovic, never a stranger to controversy, has found himself the subject of a major public backlash in Australia after revealing on Tuesday that he'd received the vaccination exemption which allowed him to bid for a record 21st major title Down Under.
But amid the storm, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley insisted the world No.1 was getting no special treatment.
Victoria's Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirmed the state government did not support his visa application - declaring on Twitter "visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors".
As Djokovic was left in isolation, there were also growing demands for him to clear up any doubts over the reasons for why he'd been given the exemption.
Rod Laver, fearing that Djokovic's participation on the court named after him at Melbourne Park could see passions running high, wants the Serb to open up.
"I think it might get ugly. I'd think the Victorian people would be thinking, 'Yes I'd love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there's a right way and a wrong way'.
"If he's got a reason for (the exemption) then ... we should know it."
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