MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Tennis star Novak Djokovic won a court battle yesterday to stay in Australia to contest the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19, but the government threatened to cancel his visa a second time.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstated Djokovic’s visa, which was cancelled after his arrival last week because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated.
The judge also ordered the government to release Djokovic within 30 minutes from a Melbourne quarantine hotel where he has spent the last four nights.
Government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge after the ruling that Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke, “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation”.
That would mean Djokovic could again face deportation and could miss the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.
Speaking with television network Prva in Belgrade, Serbia, the tennis star’s brother, Djordje Djokovic, described the judge’s ruling as a “great defeat for Australian authorities”.
He also alleged that “the latest information is that they want to arrest him”, in an apparent reference to Australian authorities.
“This is definitely politics, all this was politics,” he added.
The office of Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews confirmed that Novak Djokovic has not been arrested.
Kelly said the threat of a further visa cancellation meant the “stakes have now risen rather than receded”.
“If this man is to be summarily removed upon a personal exercise of cancellation power, he cannot return to this country for three years, am I right about that?” Kelly asked lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Andrews, under whose authority Djokovic’s visa was earlier cancelled.
Tran and colleague Naomi Wootten confirmed that Djokovic would be banned from Australia for three years.
The government cancelled 34-year-old Djokovic’s visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne last Wednesday to play in the Australian Open.
There was a public backlash at news that Djokovic, who has previously declined to reveal his vaccination status, would compete in Melbourne because Australians who aren’t vaccinated face tough travel and quarantine restrictions.