Top Seed Djokovic Included in the Draw Amid Uncertainty of Visa Decision

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a Vietnamese reporter based in Sydney and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
January 13, 2022 Updated: January 13, 2022

Australian Open organisers have pressed ahead and included top seed Novak Djokovic in the draw, despite Djokovic still facing the prospect of deportation.

After the draw in Melbourne was abruptly postponed by more than an hour without explanation, it was announced that Djokovic would be playing fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round.

Despite a win in court earlier this week, Djokovic could still miss the chance to defend his 21st grand slam title if Immigration Minister Alex Hawke decided to use his discretionary power to revoke the nine-time champion’s visa over an allegedly illegal entry to Australia.

It was speculated that the saga could extend until next week if Djokovic appeals the visa cancellation decision, although it is unclear whether there are other legal avenues that the 34-year-old could pursue.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was also expected to announce Djokovic’s visa status at a Thursday press conference, said, however, that he was not in a position to comment.

“I refer to Minister Hawke’s most recent statement, and that position hasn’t changed,” Morrison said.

“These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke, and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time.”

The nine-time titleholder used a recent COVID-19 infection to gain a medical exemption but was denied entry by Australian Border Force officials and sent to a detention hotel.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly on Monday quashed the visa cancellation, saying Djokovic was given insufficient time to speak to Tennis Australia officials and to lawyers to respond to being told of the intent to cancel his visa.

However, the judge did not deliver a formal verdict on the legitimacy of the Serbian’s medical exemption to enter the border without getting the COVID-19 jab.

Hawke’s office said additional information provided by Djokovic’s legal team had pushed back the timeframe for a decision of whether the immigration minister would overrule the federal court’s ruling of Djokovic’s visa situation.

On Wednesday, the Serbian player admitted in a statement on social media he had given false information on his travel declaration.

Djokovic also admitted to participating in a media interview in Belgrade when he was aware that he had contracted COVID-19.

“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” Djokovic wrote.

“When I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, upon reflection, this was an error of judgement, and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”

Meanwhile, Spanish authorities on Thursday were reportedly investigating whether the world’s No. 1 had violated its travel rules before he flew to Australia earlier this year.

Under advice published by the Serbian foreign ministry, unvaccinated citizens can only enter Spain for “essential” reasons, but first, they need to contact the Serbian embassy and receive approval from Spain.

Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a Vietnamese reporter based in Sydney and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.