The world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, had his case to stay in Australia to compete in the Australian Open moved to a higher court Saturday as he fights the second cancellation of his visa for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The 34-year-old Serbian appeared in a Melbourne court Saturday for a 15-minute procedural hearing in which the judge scheduled a further hearing for Sunday morning. The judge ordered lawyers for the government and Djokovic to submit written arguments before the next appearance.
Spent four days in detention
The Australian Open requires all players to be vaccinated unless they receive an exemption. Djokovic received an exemption before traveling to Australia on the grounds that he had COVID-19 last month. However, when he arrived in the country last week, his visa was revoked, and he spent four days in an immigration detention hotel until a judge overturned that decision.
Djokovic was then released from detention and continued his preparations to play in the Australian Open. However, the government canceled his visa for a second time, with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke saying he was using his discretionary power because “it was in the public interest to do so.”
In a statement, he said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Djokovic’s lawyers have argued that the government’s decision is not based on any potential health risks that Djokovic poses, but rather on how he might be perceived by those opposed to vaccinations.
Event begins Monday
The Australia Open is set to begin Monday. If Djokovic plays, he will receive the top seeded position and will attempt to become the men’s player with the most Grand Slam titles. He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.
Djokovic’s medical exemption to enter Australia despite not being vaccinated provoked a public outcry in the country, which has endured long-running lockdowns to fight the pandemic.
The tennis star contracted COVID-19 in December and has since admitted that he failed to isolate. His detention and appeal have ignited a global debate about his actions and Australia’s response.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.