Djokovic’s hopes of playing at the Australian Open have been dashed after a court rejected his appeal against an eviction order.
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has lost his chance to defend his Australian Open title after an Australian court upheld a government eviction order.
On Sunday, three Federal Court judges sided with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision on Friday to revoke the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on grounds of public interest.
A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on re-entering Australia.
Djokovic’s sensational 11-day battle over COVID vaccination status has ended his dream of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.
Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” with the court’s decision but added that he “will cooperate with the relevant authorities regarding my departure”.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the last few weeks has been on me and I hope we can all now focus on the game and the tournament that I love,” he said in a statement.
The Serbian player flew to Melbourne airport a few hours later. Federal agents escorted him and his team from the business lounge to the gate, where he boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai. The flight took off shortly before 23:00 (12:00 GMT).
Hawke canceled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could pose a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “may be counterproductive to vaccination efforts by others in Australia”.
The judges listened to half a day of fiery legal back-and-forth over the alleged risk posed by Djokovic.
Hawke said Djokovic’s stance could inspire anti-vaccine sentiment, leading some people to face the pandemic without a vaccination and inspiring anti-vaxxer activists to come together in protests and rallies.
The player’s top legal team have described Australia’s efforts to deport him as “irrational” and “unreasonable”, but they have faced pointed questions at times.
Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood, insisted his client had not courted anti-vaccination support and was not associated with the movement. The government “does not know what Mr. Djokovic’s current views are,” Wood said.
Djokovic was due to play his Australian Open first round match on Monday night as part of an announced Day 1 schedule while he was still in legal limbo.
The Australian government canceled Djokovic’s visa due to issues surrounding his stance against COVID vaccination. It was four days after the Serbian star had an earlier decision to cancel his visa overturned by a court on procedural grounds.
Fans reacted with dismay to the court’s decision.
“What they did today was anything but justice,” said Natasha Marjnovic, 44, a Djokovic supporter who was wiping away tears.