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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Fans protest in Flinders Lane on January 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Judge Kelly ordered that Djokovic be immediately released from detention and the decision to cancel his visa was “unreasonable”. (Photo : Sam Tabone/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record 10th Australian Open crown and a 21st Grand Slam title is back on track after he won a court battle to stay in Australia on Monday, January 10, despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Judge rules in favor of Djokovic after dramatic hearing
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly came to Djokovic’s rescue in a dramatic hearing, reinstating the Serbian’s visa after it was canceled upon his arrival in Melbourne last week. Border officials denied Djokovic entry after they deemed he did not meet the criteria for an exemption to a requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated upon their arrival in Australia.
The judge ordered the government to release the men’s top-ranked tennis player within 30 minutes from the Melbourne quarantine hotel he stayed the past four nights. Kelly noted in his ruling that Djokovic had already provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given to him by two medical panels and by Tennis Australia.
Djokovic’s lawyers described his visa cancellation as “seriously illogical,” irrational, and legally unreasonable, submitting 11 grounds for appeal to argue their point. Djokovic’s main argument was that he did not need proof of vaccination because he had already been infected with COVID-19 last month.
Australian medical authorities have ruled that people who have been infected with the coronavirus within six months can be provided a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule. Lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews argued that this exemption could only be given to people whose illness with COVID-19 was acute, and they believed that was not the case with Djokovic. Kelly rejected this argument, asking, “what more could Djokovic have done in the situation?”
Fight not over for Djokovic as the government threatens another visa cancellation
The case is still far from over, though, with the government threatening to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time. After his ruling, government lawyer Christopher Tran told Kelly that Alex Hawke, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation.”
A spokesman for Hawke said that the latter was still considering canceling Djokovic’s visa, which he can do under Section 133C(3) of the Migration Act. The process remains ongoing, and as it stands, Djokovic is a free man here in Australia.
I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened,I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen
I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans. 👇 pic.twitter.com/iJVbMfQ037
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
Djokovic released a statement via social media platform Twitter, saying that he is pleased and grateful that the judge overturned his visa cancellation. Djokovic said that despite everything that has happened, he still wants to stay Down Under and compete in the Australian Open. Djokovic remains focused on his goal to win another Australian Open title, saying he “flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”
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