Tennis star Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after losing a court bid to stay in the country. He fought to stay to defend his title in the Australian Open.
Judges rejected his plea to stay to defend his title after the Australian government cancelled his visa on “health and good order” grounds.
The 10-day saga ended with the decision announced on the eve of what would have been his opening match in the tournament.
The 34-year-old Serb launched his case after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his powers to cancel his visa, arguing his presence in the country risked fanning anti-vaccine sentiment.
During Sunday’s court hearing before a three-judge panel, Djokovic’s defence unsuccessfully argued that the grounds given by the government were illogical because to deport the star also risked fanning anti-vaccine sentiment.
Chief Justice James Allsop said the court ruling was based on the legality of the minister’s decision, not on whether it was the right decision to make.
There has been much public anger in Australia over the player’s attempt to enter the country without being vaccinated against Covid-19. The federal government has repeatedly said people must comply with the strict laws in place to deal with the pandemic, and that no-one is “above the law”.
Djokovic was originally granted a medical exemption to enter Australia by two different independent health panels – one commissioned by Tennis Australia, the other by the state government of Victoria – after testing positive for coronavirus in mid-December.
However, the Australian Border Force detained him on 5 January for not meeting federal coronavirus requirements, and his visa was revoked.
A judge overturned that decision but the government stepped in last Friday to revoke the visa again, saying it was in the public interest.
The Australian Open could have seen Djokovic make history by winning his 21st Grand Slam.
He said he was “taking some time to rest and to recuperate” before commenting further.
Deportation orders usually include a three-year ban on returning to Australia, though this can be waived in certain circumstances.
The Australian government faced criticism at home and abroad for its handling of the affair. The men’s tennis governing body ATP called the saga a “deeply regrettable series of events”.