A bid for extra time by the Australian government to prepare its case against tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic has been denied.
His case returns to court on Monday, with Djokovic fighting for the right to remain in the country and the chance to defend his Australian Open title.
The application, made on behalf of Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews over the weekend, sought to adjourn the final hearing by two days—just five days from the start of the Australian Open.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly refused the application and the case will resume on Monday as planned.
News broke on the weekend that Djokovic had recovered from COVID-19 before travelling to Australia. His lawyers are expected to argue this is why he met the prescribed requirements for a vaccination exemption.
The 34-year-old Serb on Sunday remained in immigration detention in Melbourne after having his visa cancelled by the federal government.
Documents released by the Federal Court on Saturday show Djokovic contracted COVID-19 on Dec. 16 and was free from symptoms ahead of his arrival in Australia on Wednesday.
“The visa holder (Djokovic) stated that Tennis Australia facilitated his medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirement and completed the Australian Travel Declaration on his behalf,” a Home Affairs representative said, as quoted in court papers.
“I consider that Tennis Australia would have facilitated his medical exemption and Australian Travel Declaration based on information (Djokovic) provided to them. As such, I don’t consider these constitute extenuating circumstances beyond (Djokovic’s) control.
“I apply significant weight in favour of visa cancellation for this factor.”
The champion player’s lawyer will argue that he met the criteria for a temporary exemption under the guidelines of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. And furthermore, that he was denied procedural fairness during the decision to revoke his visa.
Court documents cite the ATAGI advice, including: “COVID-19 vaccination in people who have had PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection can be deferred for a maximum of six months after the acute illness, as a temporary exemption due to acute major medical illness.”
Djokovic provided evidence that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Dec. 16.
After his arrival on Wednesday evening, court papers show Djokovic had a sleepless night as he was questioned by authorities at times including 4 a.m., before the visa revocation at 7:42 a.m.
A partial transcript of that interview included “you have stated you are not vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Djokovic has previously declined to confirm his vaccination status.
“Mr Djokovic had received, on 30 December 2021, a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording that he had been provided with a ‘medical exemption from COVID vaccination’ on the ground that he had recently recovered from COVID,” the court documents read.
In a letter leaked to media, Tennis Australia rejected that players were knowingly misled, insisting organisers had followed “instructions.”
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said his organisation received conflicting and contradictory information due to the “changing environment” of the pandemic.
The sporting body spoke to Home Affairs and other parts of government weekly to ensure it was doing the right thing, he told Nine News on Sunday.
By Melissa Meehan