The decision definitively buries Novak Djokovic’s hopes of winning a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open which begins on Monday January 17. The Australian Federal Court on Sunday rejected the appeal of the 34-year-old Serbian tennis player against his expulsion from the country, ordered by the government which considered that the world number one, not vaccinated against Covid-19, represented a “health risk”.
→ CONTEXT. Novak Djokovic returned to detention in Australia
Allowed to leave the detention center where he was placed on Saturday, Novak Djokovic followed the hearing online, which lasted four hours, from the offices of his lawyers in Melbourne. The decision of the Court, announced by its president James Allsop, is in theory impossible to contest by the player, forced to leave Australia immediately with possible long-term repercussions for his career.
The world number one in tennis, “extremely disappointed” by the court’s decision on his deportation, said in a statement on Sunday that he respected the verdict and was preparing to leave the country.
In his conclusions filed on Saturday before the Court, the Minister of Immigration Alex Hawke had maintained that the presence of Novak Djokovic in the country was “likely to represent a health risk”. According to him, she encouraged “anti-vaccination sentiment” and could deter Australians from getting their booster shots, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country. The presence in Australia of the champion could even “lead to an upsurge in civil unrest”, added the minister.
→ READ. Antivax, esotericism and mysterious pyramid: Novak Djokovic, follower of pseudosciences
Although he had described the risk of the player himself infecting Australians as “negligible”, the Minister had estimated that his “contempt” Passing health rules against Covid was a bad example.
Sunday before the Court, the tennis player’s lawyers described the detention of their client and his possible expulsion as“illogical”, “irrational” and “unreasonable”.
The government “don’t know what Novak Djokovic’s opinions are at the moment”, pleaded lawyer Nick Wood, saying that his client has never publicly supported the anti-vaccination movement.
Government lawyer Stephen Lloyd responded that the champion’s failure to be vaccinated nearly two years into the pandemic and his repeated disregard of health rules, including failing to isolate when he knew he was infected, constituted sufficient proof of his position.
Sunday after the hearing, Novak Djokovic was taken back to the Park Hotel, the austere detention center for illegal immigrants now world famous, which he should now only leave to board the plane that will take him home. .
This twisty soap opera took place in a country whose inhabitants have endured for almost two years some of the strictest anti-Covid restrictions in the world, and where elections are scheduled for May.
Hence a charged political context. Pressure had intensified in recent days around Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused of“incompetence” by the Labor opposition.