Djokovic fights Govt visa cancellation

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player

Novak Djokovic's desperate legal fight to keep alive his Australian Open campaign will continue into the weekend, with the world No.1 set to return to detention.

The Serbian superstar launched legal action on Friday night just hours after he had his visa revoked by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke in a hammer blow to his chances of claiming a 10th Open title this year.

Spending the night in a private residence, Djokovic will meet with immigration officials early on Saturday morning and will then be taken back into detention before the next legal hearing on Sunday in the Federal Court of Australia.

The appeal got underway with an initial directions hearing in the Federal Circuit Court before the same judge, Anthony Kelly, who on Monday quashed Djokovic's last visa cancellation on procedural fairness grounds.

During Friday night's hearing, which at one stage was watched on video link by 45,000 people, Djokovic's lawyer Nicholas Wood, SC, told the court that the minister believed the player's presence in Melbourne had potential for "exciting anti-vax sentiment".

Wood described those conclusions as seeming "patently irrational".

In handing down his orders Judge Kelly sought an undertaking from the minister that until a final decision was made Djokovic wouldn't be removed from the country.

After a four-day deliberation Hawke said he had cancelled the visa for a second time on "health and good order grounds".

"Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," Hawke said in a statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians deserved to be protected.

"Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected," Morrison said in a statement.

"This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today."

The decision by Hawke threatened to end the Serbian superstar's quest to secure a record-breaking 21st grand slam title at a tournament which he has dominated since winning his first Open title in 2008.

If Djokovic doesn't successfully fight the decision, under immigration law he would be banned from being granted another visa for three years, although this can be waived.

Meanwhile, Open organisers must rework the draw following the late omission of the top seed, who was slated to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round.

According to the grand slam rule book, Djokovic's withdrawal after the completion of the draw means his slot at the top will go to No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev.

If he withdrew (or was withdrawn) after the first day's order of play was released, he would be replaced at the top of the draw by a lucky loser.

Djokovic cited a December COVID-19 infection to gain a medical exemption from vaccination but was detained by Australian Border Force officials on arrival last week and sent to a detention hotel with his visa cancelled.

He then won a reprieve in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday and has trained daily at Melbourne Park since, including an appearance Friday morning on Rod Laver Arena.

But it proved only a temporary move with Hawke using his discretionary power to again send Djokovic packing.

The 34-year-old did himself no favours when he was forced to admit in a statement this week he had provided false information on his travel declaration, blaming his agent for the error.

He also admitted to conducting an in-person media interview in Serbia while knowingly infected with COVID-19 and meant be self-isolating - an act which he described as an "error of judgement".

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