Novak Djokovic's Visa Revoked Again by Australian Government amid Vaccination Dispute

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 14, 2022

TOPSHOT - Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. - --IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO COMMERCIAL USE-- (Photo by MARTIN KEEP / AFP) / --IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO COMMERCIAL USE-- (Photo by MARTIN KEEP/AFP via Getty Images)
MARTIN KEEP/AFP via Getty Images

Novak Djokovic is facing deportation from Australia after his travel visa was revoked for a second time Friday, just four days before the start of the 2022 Australian Open.

Alex Hawke, Australia's Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, announced the decision in a statement:

"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.
"This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
"In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr. Djokovic.
"The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I thank the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force who work every day to serve Australia's interests in increasingly challenging operational environments."

Djokovic initially received a medical exemption to participate in the Australian Open despite not meeting the event's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. He and his lawyers are scheduled for a discussion with immigration officials Saturday morning in Melbourne, per ESPN.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison first announced last week that Djokovic's visa had been canceled, a ruling that was later overturned by a court order:

Scott Morrison @ScottMorrisonMP

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.

Morrison applauded Hawke's latest decision, saying the country's strict COVID-19 requirements shouldn't be pushed aside amid rising case numbers, according to John Pye and Rod McGuirk of the Associated Press.

"This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. ... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected," Morrison said. "This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today."

Kian Bone, an Australian immigration lawyer, told the AP that Djokovic's legal team is running out of options to halt the deportation before the tournament begins Monday.

"If you left it any later than he has done now, I think from a strategic standpoint, he's really hamstringing Djokovic's legal team, in terms of what sort of options or remedies he could obtain," Bone said.

Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open winner and the three-time defending champion. His 20 overall Grand Slam titles are tied with longtime rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the all-time men's record, with Nadal also in the field for the season's first major. Federer is sidelined by injury.

After a brief delay Thursday, the Australian Open moved forward with the draw, placing the 34-year-old Djokovic as the top seed in the men's bracket. He's scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round if he's cleared to play.

Tournament play will begin Monday morning (Sunday night in the U.S.) at Melbourne Park.