MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic said he was disappointed that a court on Sunday dismissed his challenge to an eviction order and accepted that his hopes of playing at the Australian Open had been dashed.
The top-ranked tennis star released a statement shortly after three Federal Court judges unanimously upheld a decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday to revoke the 34-year-old Serb’s visa years for reasons of public interest because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. .
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa which means I cannot stay in Australia and compete in the Australian Open” , Djokovic said.
“I respect the court’s decision and will cooperate with the relevant authorities regarding my departure from the country,” he added.
Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus was on him since his visa was first canceled when he arrived at Mebourne airport on January 6.
“Hopefully now we can all focus on the game and the tournament that I love,” he said.
The move likely means that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until his deportation.
Eviction usually takes place as soon as possible after an order, unless prevented by legal action. The government has not specified when Djokovic will leave.
A deportation order also usually includes a three-year ban on re-entering Australia.
Chief Justice James Allsop said the decision boiled down to whether the Minister’s decision was “irrational or legally unreasonable”.
Hawke welcomes the decision. His office did not immediately provide details on how or when Djokovic would leave.
“Australia’s strong border protection policies have protected us during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries and highest vaccination rates in the world. “Hawke said in a statement.
“Strong border protection policies are also fundamental to preserving Australia’s social cohesion which continues to strengthen despite the pandemic,” he added.
Djokovic could potentially appeal to the High Court, but not in time for him to play in the Australian tournament.
“I will now take some time to rest and recover, before making any further comments beyond that,” he said.
The court process that hoped Djokovic would maintain his aspirations for a 21st Grand Slam title was extraordinarily fast by Australian standards.
Within three hours of Hawke’s announcement on Friday afternoon that Djokovic’s visa had been revoked, his attorneys appeared before a federal circuit judge and family court to challenge the decision. The case went to Federal Court on Saturday and submissions were filed by both parties the same day.
The three judges heard the case for more than five hours on Sunday and announced their verdict two hours later.
Between the end of the hearing and the verdict, Tennis Australia, the organizer of the tournament, had announced that Djokovic was due to play the last match on Monday at the Rod Laver Arena.
He was due to face Miomir Kecmanovic, a fellow Serbian ranked 78th in the world.
Tennis Australia had no immediate comment on the star player’s legal defeat.
The minister canceled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could pose a risk to the health and ‘good order’ of the Australian public and ‘may be counterproductive to vaccination efforts by others in Australia’ .
Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled on January 6 by a border official who decided he did not qualify for a medical exemption from Australian rules for unvaccinated visitors.
Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, and a total of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies, tied with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in tennis history male.
Djokovic’s dominance of late has been particularly impressive, winning four of the last seven majors and finishing second in two others.
The only time he didn’t reach at least the final in that span was at the 2020 US Open, where he was disqualified in the fourth round for hitting a ball that inadvertently hit a judge line to the throat after a match.
AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this report.
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