Novak Djokovic won’t be competing in the Australian Open after all. The world’s top tennis player had his travel visa revoked for a second time Friday and, along with deportation, now faces a potential three-year ban from Australia, according John Pye and Rod McGuirk of the Associated Press.
The decision was made unilaterally by Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke, who feared Djokovic would be a risk to public health. Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood, has already presented an appeal to Australian Federal Circuit and Family Court and hopes to have Djokovic’s visa reinstated in time for him to play his opening-round match Monday against fellow Serbian Mimomir Kecmanovic.
Judge Anthony Kelly ruled in favor of Djokovic Monday after he was detained by Australian border control, who denied him entry on the grounds of false travel documents. The 34-year-old was granted a rare medical exemption to play in the Australian Open—a tournament he’s won a record nine times including each of the last three years—despite being unvaccinated. Djokovic revealed earlier this week that he battled COVID last month but was asymptomatic. In a lengthy Instagram post, Djokovic also acknowledged attending a photoshoot with the virus (a decision he now regrets) and misfiling paperwork for his visa, which he attributed to “human error.”
Djokovic’s presence in Melbourne has been a source of controversy among locals. The resentment stems from Australia’s unusually strict mandates including months of lockdown and government closures amid the continued spread of COVID-19. Even fellow players have been critical of Djokovic, including fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, who accused him of “playing by his own rules” and making vaccinated players “look like fools.”
Similar to Packers quarterback and fellow anti-vaxxer Aaron Rodgers, Djokovic’s public image has taken a significant hit of late, with attention called to his reckless flouting of COVID protocols. The saga has put tournament officials between a rock and a hard place, having to balance public sentiment against the financial impact of staging a marquee event without arguably the sport’s biggest star.
Should his appeal be denied, fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev would assume Djokovic’s bracket position Monday against Kecmanovic.