On Sunday, Novak Djokovic left Australia after three federal judges upheld the decision to revoke his visa for the second time.
“I can confirm that Mr. Djokovic has now left Australia,” immigration minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.
Djokovic was escorted by border force guards as he boarded Emirates flight EK409 to Dubai, according to immigration officials. The 13-hour flight took off at 10:39 p.m. local time from Melbourne. He arrived in Dubai on Monday morning.
The Serbian tennis star had been in limbo for more than a week, awaiting the court’s final decision on whether he would be allowed to stay and defend his title at the Australian Open on Monday. The unanimous decision of the judges was delivered on Sunday.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means that I will be unable to stay in Australia and compete in the Australian Open,” Djokovic said in a statement. “I respect the Court’s decision and will cooperate with the appropriate authorities regarding my departure from the country.”
“I applaud the decision to fortify our borders and keep Australians safe,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement on Sunday. “As I stated on Friday, Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they have every right to expect the fruits of those sacrifices to be protected.”
His family issued a statement on Sunday expressing their support for Djokovic and dissatisfaction with the judges’ decision.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision and the fact that Novak must leave Australia.” This was not only about sports and competing in the first Grand Slam of the season, which Novak has dominated for a decade, but also about politics and all the interests that prevailed in this case,” Djokovic’s family said in a statement. “Despite Novak’s scandalous behavior, we believed that the sport would triumph. We believed that the fact confirmed by the court would be respected – that Novak has a valid visa, that justice will be served … We believe that he will come out of this situation stronger, and that time will show what he has indisputably always confirmed so far, and that is that he is a great champion and a man.”
Hawke, who canceled the visa, also expressed satisfaction with the decision.
“Australia’s strong border protection policies kept us safe during the pandemic,” he said in a statement. “This resulted in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world.”
Djokovic’s first-round match against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic was scheduled for the evening session on Monday. The Australian Open announced on Twitter that his place in the draw had been filled.
Djokovic had filed an appeal to have his visa reinstated after it was revoked on Friday.
During the hearing on Sunday, both parties made submissions and responses. The discussion centered on Djokovic’s views on vaccination and whether those views posed a public health risk. Hawke, according to Djokovic’s legal team, misinterpreted media reports about the tennis star’s stance on vaccination. According to Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood, there is a lack of evidence to support the claim that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could incite anti-vaccination sentiment.
“Not a single line of evidence in the material before the minister provided any… foundation whatsoever for the proposition that Mr. Djokovic’s mere presence in Australia… may somehow, to use the minister’s phrase, foster anti-vaccination sentiment,” Wood said.
Stephen Lloyd, the immigration minister’s lawyer, stated that there is clear evidence of Djokovic’s anti-vaccination views and that his continued presence in Australia will encourage anti-vaccination sentiment. Djokovic, according to Lloyd, has become “an icon for anti-vaccination groups.”
“That he’s still unvaccinated reflects a choice on his part or remain unvaccinated when he could be vaccinated,” Lloyd said.