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Novak Djokovic Leaves Australia After Losing His Bid to Stay

Credit…Mark Baker/Associated Press

Novak Djokovic, the top player in men’s tennis and its leading vaccine skeptic, had his visa canceled for the second time by the government of Australia, where he had arrived on Jan. 5 hoping to defend his Australian Open title. The tournament begins on Monday.

Here’s a look at how the standoff has unfolded:

A surprise exemption gave Djokovic an apparent chance to avoid Australia’s tough vaccination rules.

Djokovic has won the last three Australian Open men’s singles championships, and a record nine in his career. But he has received scrutiny for his unscientific beliefs, including support for a claim that positive emotions can purify toxic water or food, and he has shunned coronavirus vaccines.

Last year, the Australian Open said that participants in this month’s tournament would have to be fully vaccinated, in line with requirements for entering the country. Djokovic’s participation was seen as unlikely until he said on Jan. 4 that he would play after receiving an exemption.

It was later learned that his exemption was based on a recent coronavirus infection.

The federal government stopped Djokovic at the border.

Djokovic was stopped at the airport in Melbourne late on Jan. 5 after flying from Spain via Dubai. He was questioned for hours at the airport before being sent to a quarantine hotel.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, who has faced criticism over the government’s Covid-19 response, said that Djokovic’s entry had been denied because he was unvaccinated. Federal officials said that a previous coronavirus infection was not valid grounds for the vaccination exemption granted by Australian tennis officials and local authorities in Victoria, the state where the tournament is held.

Djokovic, who was taken to a quarantine hotel pending his departure, immediately filed a legal appeal.

Djokovic won an appeal, but questions soon arose.

On Monday, after Djokovic had spent five days at a hotel for refugees and asylum seekers, a judge ruled that the player had been treated unfairly at the airport and reinstated his visa.

But documents released as part of the legal proceedings raised questions about Djokovic’s actions.

Records showed that he took a coronavirus test at 1:05 p.m. on Dec. 16 in Belgrade, Serbia, and received the positive result seven hours later. But social media posts showed that he had attended two public events on the day he sought his test, and also a tennis event a day later in Belgrade, where he presented awards to children. And Franck Ramella, a reporter with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe, wrote this past week that when he conducted an interview with Djokovic on Dec. 18, he did not know that the athlete had just tested positive.

Questions also arose over whether Djokovic had made a false statement on his entry form to Australia when he said that he had not traveled internationally in the 14 days before his flight from Spain. Social media posts showed him in Serbia on Christmas Day.

Djokovic acknowledged mistakes.

In a statement on Wednesday, Djokovic said he was not yet aware that he had tested positive when he attended the children’s event, and acknowledged that he had made a poor decision not to cancel the interview with the French journalist. He said that a member of his support team had made a “human error” when filling out his paperwork.

But Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, was already giving serious consideration to using his powers to cancel the visa for the second time.

Australia’s immigration minister revoked Djokovic’s visa.

On Friday, Hawke said in a statement that he was canceling Djokovic’s visa on the grounds of “health and good order,” adding that it was in the public interest to do so. Djokovic’s lawyers quickly appealed.

A three-judge panel agreed to hear the case.

Lawyers for Djokovic and the Australian government laid out their arguments in a hearing Sunday before a panel of three judges.

The granting of the panel by Justice David O’Callaghan, at the request of Djokovic’s lawyers, meant that the court’s decision on the case cannot be appealed.


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