Novak Djokovic spent a day confined to a hotel room waiting for a court to deal with the prospect of a possible deportation from Australia. The 20-time Grand Slam singles winner will spend at least another night there, in immigration detention, as he fights against the deportation move. With his entry denied and his visa canceled by Australian Border Force officials who rejected his evidence to support a medical exemption from the country's strict COVID-19 vaccination rules, Djokovic had to trade the practice courts for the courts of law on Thursday, the AP reports. His lawyers launched a legal action which has delayed, at least temporarily, his deportation. The nine-time champion's chance of playing in the Australian Open starting Jan. 17 remains in limbo.
A lawyer for the government agreed the 34-year-old Djokovic should not be deported before Friday at the earliest, while the hearing was adjourned until Monday. Djokovic’s trip was contentious well before he landed, with the conservative federal government and the left-leaning state government of Victoria seemingly having conflicting views over what constituted acceptable medical grounds for an exemption to Australia’s vaccination policy for foreign travelers. Djokovic announced on social media Tuesday that he had "exemption permission." He landed in Melbourne late Wednesday with a medical exemption from Victoria state that was expected to shield him from the regulations which require all players, fans, and staff to be fully vaccinated to attend the Australian Open.
After a long-haul flight, he spent the night trying to convince border authorities he had all the necessary documentation, but the Australian Border Force issued an early morning statement saying Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. "The rule is very clear,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a news conference. "You need to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced." The president of Djokovic’s native Serbia blasted the "harassment" of the star. Djokovic was transferred Thursday morning to a secure hotel which is controlled by immigration officials and has previously housed asylum seekers and refugees. Supporters draped in Serbian flags gathered outside during the afternoon in a show of support. (Read more Novak Djokovic stories.)