After the return to detention, the expulsion for Novak Djokovic? The world No.1 must again wait in a Melbourne detention center for his fate to be decided after the cancellation of his visa for the second time by the Australian government, which maintains that the player, not vaccinated against Covid- 19, constitutes a “health risk“.
After deportation proceedings against the Serbian tennis star failed earlier this week, the Australian government has made another attempt.
But Djokovic, who has never hidden his distrust of the anti-Covid vaccine, intends to fight to the end against this decision and an interim hearing is scheduled for Sunday before a Federal Court.
After enjoying a few days of freedom which he used to train for the Australian Open where he dreams of winning a record 21st Grand Slam title, “Djoko“, 34, was back on Saturday in the basic comfort detention center where he had already spent several days.
A convoy of vehicles, including one carrying Djokovic, left his lawyers’ offices – where he spent part of Saturday under the watch of border police officers – heading for the now globally recognized Park Hotel known.
– “Health risk” –
In his submissions filed in court on Saturday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke argued that Djokovic’s presence in the country “is likely to pose a health risk to the Australian community“.
According to him, she encourages “anti-vaccination sentimentand could deter Australians from getting their booster shots, as the Omicron variant continues to spread at high speed.
The presence in Australia might even “lead to an upsurge in civil unrest“, added the minister who, on Friday, canceled Djokovic’s visa for the second time under his discretionary power, invoking “health and public order reasons“.
Although he described the risk of Djokovic himself infecting Australians as “negligible”, the minister considered that his “contempt“Passing health rules against Covid is a bad example.
The Minister “cites no evidence“In support of his arguments, retorted the player’s lawyers.
Two days before the opening of the tournament, the participation of the Serb who must face, a priori Monday, in the first round his compatriot Miomir Kekmanovic, seems more than ever improbable.
This is the second time that Djokovic has been subject to deportation proceedings.
He had been blocked on his arrival in Australia on January 5 and placed in administrative detention for the first time. The player, who contracted Covid-19 in December, had hoped for an exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated, but the authorities did not accept this explanation.
The Australian government suffered a humiliating setback on January 10 when a judge blocked Djokovic’s deportation, reinstated his visa and ordered his immediate release.
In a statement released on Wednesday, however, Djokovic admitted to having incorrectly filled out his declaration of entry into Australia.
– “Incompetence” –
The 86-time ATP title player, seen in Serbia and Spain in the two weeks prior to his arrival, contrary to what he stated in the immigration form upon arrival, pleaded “human error“.
Dreams of a 10th title in Melbourne are all the more distant as this visa cancellation, if confirmed by justice, implies that Djokovic will be banned from entering the country for three years, except in exceptional circumstances.
This twisty soap opera takes place in a country whose people have endured some of the toughest anti-Covid restrictions in the world for nearly two years, and where elections are scheduled for May.
Hence a charged political context. Pressure has intensified around Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused of “incompetenceby the Labor opposition.
The Djokovic case is also followed assiduously in Serbia where “Nole” is considered a national hero. On Friday, President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia of “mistreating” him.
The other players who are preparing for the Australian Open no longer hide their annoyance and weariness.
“The Australian Open is more important than any player” And this “will be a great Australian Open with or without him“, thus asserted the Spaniard Rafael Nadal, one of the three superstars of world tennis alongside Djokovic and the Swiss Roger Federer.
“It was really difficult for Australians“, recalled for his part the great hope of local tennis Alex de Minaur.