Sunday, 22 May, 2022

‘Disappointed’ Djokovic deported from Australia

‘Disappointed’ Djokovic deported from Australia
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (third left) is seen leaving the Melbourne Airport in Melbourne on Sunday, after losing a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status with his dream of clinching a record 21st Grand Slam in tatters. – AFP PHOTO

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Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia Sunday having lost a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status and with his dream of clinching a record 21st Grand Slam in tatters.

An "extremely disappointed" Djokovic said he would comply with a unanimous Federal Court decision to uphold his visa cancellation over fears he could stoke anti-vaccine sentiment.

"I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open," he said on the eve of a tournament that he has dominated for a decade. "I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love."

An AFP reporter captured images of Djokovic at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport late Sunday, as the humbled star boarded a flight for Dubai.

EK409 took off at 10:51 pm local time (1151 GMT). Just hours earlier, in a few dry words, the chief justice of Australia's Federal Court, James Allsop, dispensed with the unvaccinated tennis superstar's attempt to reinstate his cancelled visa and to make tennis history.

"The orders of the court are that the amended application be dismissed with costs," Allsop said in understated remarks that ended a week of legal high drama.

Three Federal Court justices had listened to half a day of feisty legal back-and-forth about Djokovic's alleged risk to public order in Australia.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke claimed Djokovic's stance could inspire anti-vaccine sentiment, leading some people to face the pandemic without vaccination and inspiring anti-vaxxer activists to gather in protests and rallies.

Hawke welcomed Sunday's verdict, saying: "Australia's strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic."

"(They) are also fundamental to safeguarding Australia's social cohesion," he said.

The player's high-powered legal team tried but failed to paint Australia's effort to deport him as "irrational" and "unreasonable".

Despite the star being unvaccinated, lawyer Nick Wood insisted his client had not courted anti-vaxxer support and was not associated with the movement.

The government "doesn't know what Mr Djokovic's current views are", Wood insisted.

The court did not endorse the government's decision, but ruled the action was legal under rules that give the minister exceptional and almost unquestionable executive power.