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Novak Djokovic's hopes of defending his Australian Open crown look to be over after Australian authorities cancelled his visa application.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday that a source close to Djokovic's team confirmed that his lawyers were in the process of challenging the decision.
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If unsuccessful, it's likely the 20-time grand slam champion will be flown out of Australia later today.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the visa was cancelled following an overview of the exemption provided by the Victorian government.
"It is a matter for him whether he wishes to appeal, but if a visa is cancelled, somebody will have to leave the country," Mr Hunt told the Seven Network.
The Australian Border Force (ABF) said Djokovic did not have the appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews warned ahead of Djokovic's arrival that while the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may allow a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it was the federal government that dealt with border entry requirements.
Since December 15, fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can arrive in Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption and can travel to eligible states and territories without having to quarantine.
But if a person is not vaccinated, they must provide proof they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or be turned away.
Djokovic has not officially disclosed his vaccination status but it is widely believed he is unvaccinated.
In a confusing situation, the Serb reportedly applied for an incorrect visa after being granted a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination rules to compete in the year's first grand slam.
It came after the Victorian government said it would not support Djokovic’s visa application.
Djokovic had looked primed to defend his title after Tennis Australia (TA) granted him the exemption, although that sparked public outrage in Victoria, with the state hit hard by restrictions throughout the pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Djokovic, who has previously spoken out against vaccinations, would be on the “next plane home” if he could not provide “acceptable proof” that his exemption was legitimate.
The Serb arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday evening but faced trouble at the border, with Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirming that the state government was not supporting his visa application to compete in the Australian Open.
She tweeted: “The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
Update on #AusOpen2022…
The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
— Jaala Pulford MP (@JaalaPulford) January 5, 2022
“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
“We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”
Father vows to fight for Novak Djokovic's justice
Djokovic was not granted entry into the country upon his arrival at around 11.30pm on Wednesday night, with the World No.1 undergoing further questioning at 5.30am Thursday as the saga dragged on.
The chaotic situation prompted an angry outburst from the 34-year-old's father Srdjan, who urged protesters to take to the streets and fight for his son's justice if Australian authorities did not release him.
“I have no idea what’s going on, they are holding my son captive for five hours,” Djokovic’s father, Srdjan is reported to have told Serbian media.
“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.”
As Novak Djokovic's detention at Melbourne Airport extends beyond six hours, his father Srdan tells media, via @sunriseon7: 'They are holding my son captive. If they don't release him in the next half an hour, we will fight them on the street.'
— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) January 5, 2022
Djokovic's father said his son was being kept under police guard inside a room that no one else could enter, with the Guardian reporting that the World No.1 was separated from the rest of his team and without a mobile phone.
The Serb's coach Goran Ivanisevic shed some light on the situation after sharing a post on Instagram of some of Djokovic's team waiting at the airport.
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