After four nights in an Australian immigration prison hotel, Novak Djokovic will get his day in court on Monday in a deportation case that has polarized opinions and elicited sincere support from the high-ranking tennis star in his native Serbia.
Djokovic had his visa canceled after arriving at Melbourne Airport last week when Australian border officials ruled that he did not meet the criteria for an entry exemption, which requires all non-citizens to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
His attorneys have since filed court documents in his contest against deportation from Australia showing Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 and has recovered over the past month. He used this as a reason to apply for a medical exemption under Australia’s strict vaccination regulations.
The case is scheduled for a virtual hearing to appeal the visa waiver. It will take place at 10 a.m. local time in Melbourne (2300 GMT Sunday) in the Australian Federal District and Family Court.
On Sunday, Australian media reported that an offer by the federal government for additional time in preparation for their trial against Djokovic had been rejected. The motion, tabled on behalf of Home Secretary Karen Andrews over the weekend, aimed to postpone the final hearing for two days – just five days before the start of the Australian Open.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly denied the motion, and the case continues as planned on Monday.
In Serbia, Djokovic’s family held a rally in support of his support in Belgrade on Saturday for the third day in a row, and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic assured him that her government would support his visa dispute to ensure he could travel to Australia and defend his Australian Open title . The tournament begins on January 17th – just a week after his court date.
“We managed to have gluten-free food delivered to him, as well as exercise equipment, a laptop and a SIM card so he can keep in touch with his family,” said Brnabic. Australian media reported that immigration officials denied a request to have Djokovic’s personal chef cook meals for him at the immigration hotel.
Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He has 20 individual Grand Slam titles, a record for men that he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
In Djokovic’s perfect world, he would have eaten food cooked by this personal chef, worked out in a gym, and since arriving every day on the court, mingling with his support group and friends.
Instead, he was locked in his room in a modest immigration hotel in downtown Melbourne with guards in the corridor.
The case has become complex.
Djokovic was granted a medical dispensation on Jan. 1, backed by the Victoria state government and Australian Open organizers, based on information he submitted to two independent medical bodies. He was electronically approved for a visa.
However, it has since emerged that the state of Victoria medical exemption for people who tested positive for the coronavirus within the last six months has been deemed invalid by federal border authorities.
It would have been valid to enter the tournament, but it was not enough to please the Australian Border Force.
Australian media have reported details of the court documents, which are expected to be presented as testimony on Monday. It emerged that on December 30th, Djokovic received a letter from Tennis Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, “which stated that he had been granted a ‘medical exemption from the COVID vaccination’ on the grounds that he had recently withdrawn recovered from COVID ”.
It said Djokovic’s first positive test was on December 16, and as of the issue date, the exception rule stated that the 34-year-old player had “had no fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours”.
Djokovic took part in an event in Belgrade on December 17, at which young tennis players were honored. The event was covered by local media and the parents posted photos on social media showing Djokovic and the children without masks. It is not clear whether Djokovic knew the results of his test at the time.
On December 14th, Djokovic attended a Euroleague basketball game between Red Star and Barcelona in a crowded sports hall in Belgrade. He was photographed hugging several players from both teams, including some who tested positive soon after.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said “rules are rules” and that arriving passengers are responsible for complying with border regulations, has been accused of exploiting Djokovic’s case to improve his tarnished popularity polls ahead of an upcoming election.
Djokovic’s plight has led Serbia to claim Djokovic is being treated like a prisoner. The player himself appears to have become a standard bearer for anti-vaccine groups, including some people who have gathered outside his immigration hotel for assistance.
The organizers of the Australian Open were a little upset about the situation in Djokovic, and for obviously good reason.
Tennis Australia, which runs the tournament and handles the logistics for more than 2,000 incoming players, staff and officials, has reportedly given players incorrect interpretations of the acceptable reasons for an exception. This included the interpretation that a coronavirus infection within the last six months is possible. The organizers have blamed the federal government for their mixed messages on politics.
Tournament director Craig Tiley has been working in the background with Djokovic, or so it seems.
Tiley’s video message to the Australian Open staff about the “difficult time of the tournament in the public arena” was in the News Corp. newspapers on Saturday. released.
“There was one issue that affects some players, Novak in particular. . . in a very difficult situation, “Tiley said in the video. “We are a player-first event. We work closely with Novak and his team and others and their team who are in this situation. “
Djokovic was one of two players detained at the hotel, which also houses refugees and asylum seekers. A third person who is alleged to be a civil servant left the country voluntarily after an investigation by the border forces.
The other player was 38-year-old doubles specialist Renata Vorácová, who had already been in Australia for a week before an investigation by the border officials. The Czech Foreign Ministry said Vorácová left Australia voluntarily after deciding not to appeal the decision.
The court hearing on Monday will clarify whether Djokovic is not far behind her.
Contributed to this report were Associated Press Writer Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and AP Sports Writer John Pye in Brisbane, Australia.
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