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Nick Kyrgios has taken a stunning swipe at the Australian government over its handling of the Novak Djokovic saga, labelling the whole fiasco a "s*** show" that has been "embarrassing" for the country.
Djokovic's lawyers accused Immigration Minister Alex 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.
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The Federal Court on Sunday heard a challenge to Mr Hawke's use of his discretionary powers late on Friday to cancel the tennis world No.1's visa.
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 have told the court that Mr Hawke's decision is 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 told the three Federal Court judges hearing the case that there was evidence before Mr Hawke showing it was actually the dispute over Djokovic's visa that was energising anti-vaxxers.
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, Mr Wood argued.
Djokovic's lawyers also argued that Mr Hawke did not have enough evidence to conclude that Djokovic is personally opposed to vaccination.
The minister chose not to ask Djokovic for his opinions, Mr Wood said.
The court hard the government's response, before adjourning at around 2:40pm, with an outcome expected to be reached later on Sunday afternoon.
The long-running saga has made headlines around the world and left a sour taste in the mouths of many - including Aussie firebrand Kyrgios, who is quarantining after contracting Covid-19 and pulling out of the Sydney Tennis Classic last week.
Speaking on his No Boundaries podcast, Kyrgios echoed the view of many other players by saying he was sick of hearing all the news about Djokovic, insisting the whole messy saga had "tarnished" Australia's reputation around the world.
“It’s just a s***show,” he said. “I’m waking up and it’s just reading the media and there’s something new every day. I feel like we’re just trying to fight things that aren’t right, it’s not about the vaccination any more, it’s just about him not being here on the right visa or his visa being cancelled.
“I feel like if it’s not that, it’s something else. I just think it’s crazy. I feel so sorry for him. Preparing for an Australian Open or grand slam is enough for someone and the pressures that he has are so unique, he’s going for 21 slams, being Novak Djokovic preparing is already enough, and I feel with dealing with the media, already having a court case, winning that, and now being detained again from that, still trying to practice, still trying to prepare and now his visa’s cancelled.
“It’s an absolute s***show. How we deal with this stuff is just embarrassing.”
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke argues that allowing the 20-time grand slam winner to remain Down Under may be a risk "to the health of the Australian community".
Concerns Novak Djokovic will fuel 'anti-vax sentiment'
The government contends that Djokovic's mere presence during the Australian Open could stoke "anti-vaccination sentiment" and encourage others to disregard isolation rules.
However, Kyrgios has rubbished any such suggestion.
“We’re treating him like he’s a weapon of mass destruction at the moment,” he said. “Literally he is here to play tennis.
“The mistreating of the people of Melbourne over the past two years has been atrocious, and I understand the anger towards him being unvaccinated and the medical exemption, I understand that. Now I feel like the people, no matter what Novak does, they’re just going to say ‘get him out of our country’.
“He’s not doing anything to anyone, he just wants to come here and play the Australian Open and I think it’s very important for him to be here and play the Australian Open for the people. We want sport.
“Sport brings people together through times of struggle, like what we’re all going through. We’re all looking forward to the Melbourne Cup, having that back, the Australian Open, having that back, and sport brings people together.
“The media has borderline ruined the Australian Open, divided everyone and it’s not what sport’s supposed to do.”
The Federal government's case against Djokovic is based on the argument that his presence during the Australian Open could encourage residents to shirk isolation rules, given the tennis star's concession to having previously done so, and foster "anti-vaccination sentiment".
This, the Immigration Minister said, could lead to civil unrest akin to previous anti-vaccination protests and fewer people getting their booster jab.
Djokovic's law firm Hall & Wilcox flatly rejected the claim in its grounds for appealing the visa cancellation, saying the minister had not cited any evidence to back it up.
The firm argued Mr Hawke's contention could "not logically, rationally and reasonably be assessed" without considering whether booting Djokovic out of the country would excite similar anti-vaccination sentiments.
Djokovic was on Saturday afternoon driven from his lawyer's office to the Park Hotel in Melbourne's Carlton, which is being used as an immigration detention centre.
The 34-year-old was detained at the hotel for four nights when his visa was first cancelled and spent a fifth evening in detention overnight.
He is set to face Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O'Callaghan in a full court hearing at the Federal Court of Australia from 9.30am on Sunday.
The hearing will be a judicial review of Mr Hawke's decision, with the panel limiting either parties' grounds to appeal.
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