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Djokovic 'Pleased' After Winning Court Case But Expulsion From Australia Still Looms


Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic (file photo)
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic (file photo)

World tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic has said he is "pleased and grateful" over an Australian judge's decision to reverse the cancellation of his visa and voiced hope he will still play in the Australian Open.

Djokovic was released earlier on January 10 from a quarantine hotel in Melbourne after Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstated his visa, which had been canceled last week because the unvaccinated Serbian player violated Australia's strict COVID-19 requirements.

"Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that," he said on Twitter, along with a photo of himself and his training staff standing on the court at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne where the tournament is held.

Kelly ruled the Australian government's decision last week to revoke Djokovic's visa was "unreasonable" and ordered his release within 30 minutes of his decision.

But government lawyers warned that Australia may yet use executive powers to order Djokovic's deportation, which would result in him being banned for three years.

Lawyer Christopher Tran informed the judge that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may step in with executive powers and order the expulsion of the 34-year-old player, prompting the judge to warn in return that "the stakes have now risen, rather than receded."

Kelly also ordered that the government pay legal costs for Djokovic, who spent several days in the immigration detention hotel, saying that his lawyers argued his "personal and professional reputation and his economic interests may be directly affected."

A group of around 50 Djokovic fans, many draped in the Serbian flag, outside the Melbourne court greeted the court decision with noisy celebrations outside the court.

The Australian Open begins on January 17, and the nine-time defending champion has been stuck in a detention hotel for refugees instead of preparing to potentially win a record 21st Grand Slam.

Earlier on January 10, at an online hearing, the judge appeared to agree with Djokovic's argument that he had presented the required medical exemption upon his arrival at Melbourne's airport last week.

"The point that I am somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?" Kelly said.

Lawyers for Djokovic argued that a COVID-19 infection last month qualified the 34-year-old player for the medical exemption from Australia's requirement that noncitizens present evidence of full vaccination.

Court filing shows Djokovic said he received a letter from Tennis Australia's chief medical officer stating he had a medical exemption from vaccination after he tested positive for the coronavirus on December 16 and was free of symptoms by December 30.

Despite Djokovic's claim of a positive test on December 16, he attended events in Belgrade that day and the following and wasn't wearing a mask. It was unclear if he was aware of his infection at the time.

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Djokovic initially received an exemption from local Australian officials despite tight restrictions on foreigners' entry amid a spike in infections.

Tennis Australia says his exception “was granted following a rigorous review process."

Tennis Australia says it needs to know whether Djokovic can play by January 11, because it has to schedule the matches.

The treatment of the national star has angered many Serbs.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on January 8 said the government stood ready to provide all necessary guarantees to allow Djokovic to be granted permission to enter Australia.

Djokovic's father, Srdjan Djokovic, said he was "disgusted" at the way his son was being treated.

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"The worldwide support he is getting is worth more than dozens of grand slams," he told about 300 protesters. "They can't call this tournament of theirs an open anymore when it's closed."

Djokovic has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men's record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, who has revealed he is fully vaccinated, said the court ruling was "the fairest" decision.

"Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, justice has spoken and said he has the right to participate in the Australian Open's the fairest decision to do so, if it has been resolved that way. I wish him the best of luck," Nadal said.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, BBC, and Reuters
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