MELBOURNE, Australia — A court hearing for tennis star Novak Djokovic ‘s appeal against deportation in Australia ended Sunday and a verdict was expected within hours.
Federal Court Chief Justice James Allsop said he and two fellow judges hoped to reach a verdict later Sunday. The top-ranked male tennis player needs to win the appeal to defend his Australian Open title in play that begins on Monday.
The Australian government cancelled Djokovic’s visa on Friday due to issues surrounding his stance against COVID-19 vaccination.
Djokovic returned to court to fight an attempt to deport him because of what a government minister described as a perception that the top-ranked tennis player was a "talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment."
Three Federal Court judges hope to hear the entire case in a single day so that the men’s No. 1-ranked tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion might begin on Monday his title defense at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year.
Djokovic spent Saturday night in an immigration detention hotel after he and his lawyers met with immigration officials earlier in the day. Television footage showed the 34-year-old Serb wearing a face mask as he sat in a vehicle near the hotel Sunday morning.
He is permitted to leave the hotel to spend Sunday in his lawyers’ offices, under the guard of two immigration officials, while the challenge is heard via a video conference.
Djokovic spent four nights confined to a hotel near downtown Melbourne before being released last Monday when he won a court challenge on procedural grounds against his first visa cancellation.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday blocked the visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on Jan. 5.
Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
On Sunday, Federal Chief Justice James Allsop gave his reasons for rejecting Hawke’s argument that the case only warranted a hearing by a single judge.
Allsop cited Hawke’s own words that the issues behind his decision to cancel the visa "go to the very preservation of life and health of many members of the community."
A verdict of three judges is far less likely to be appealed than the decision of a single judge.Djokovic could not appeal a decision made on Sunday or Monday in time to compete in the Australian Open, Allsop said.Lawyers for Djokovic filed documents in court that revealed Hawke had stated that the tennis star "is perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment."Australia has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world.The minister said Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and "good order" of the Australian public and "may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia."The Health Department advised that Djokovic was a "low" risk of transmitting COVID-19 and a "very low" risk of transmitting the disease at the Australian Open.The minister cited comments Djokovic made in April 2020 that […]