Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic said in a statement that he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision to cancel his visa to enter Australia, but would respect it and cooperate with the authorities in relation to his departure from the country.
The Serbian champion’s hopes of playing at the Australian Open were dashed Sunday after a court dismissed the top-ranked tennis star’s appeal against a deportation order.
Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds. Djokovic was also ordered to pay the government’s court costs.
Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” but respected the ruling, made on the eve of his first match.
“I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this. I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open. I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country. I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament. Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”
The decision could mean that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against Covid-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported. A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.
Djokovic arrived in Melbourne nearly two weeks ago and promptly had his visa canceled for failing to show why he was medically exempt from having the Covid-19 vaccine.
The 34-year-old defending champion was scheduled to play in the evening of the first day. If he had retained the title he would become the first men’s tennis player in history to win 21 Grand Slams.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke praised the court’s decision to uphold his cancelation of Novak Djokovic’s visa, calling it a matter of public safety during the pandemic.
Hawke said Djokovic’s stance may cause anti-vaccine sentiment and and inspiring anti-vaccination activists to protest.