Tennis star Novak Djokovic's appeal against the cancellation of his visa in Australia has been adjourned until Monday, jeopardizing his chances to defend his Australian Open title after he was blocked from entering the country.
Djokovic will have to remain in immigration detention in a quarantine hotel as he awaits a decision, The Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal expressed some sympathy for his rival’s plight Thursday but said that ultimately, Djokovic would have to accept the consequences of his decisions.
Australian authorities barred Djokovic, 34,the world’s top-ranked male player, from entering the country Wednesday before they ordered him to leave early Thursday local time. The Australian Border Force confirmed that it had canceled his visa after he “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to meet the entry requirements.
Australians expressed outrage over news that Djokovic had been given Covid vaccination “exemption permission” to travel to Australia to play in the tournament as the country grapples with another surge in Covid-19 cases.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those who said Djokovic, the record nine-time Australian Open champion, should not get special treatment to enter the country, which has imposed some of the world's strongest border restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
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“Rules are rules,” Morrison said, stressing that "ultimately this is the responsibility of the traveler."
"It is for the traveler to be able to assert and back up their ability to come into the country consistent with our laws," he said.
Under Australia's border restrictions, people who are unvaccinated can enter the country only if they have valid medical exemptions.
At a later news conference, Morrison said Djokovic had not been “singled out” but suggested that he had attracted the attention of Australian border authorities because of his past statements condemning vaccination mandates.
The Australian Border Force “act on intelligence to direct their attention to potential arrivals,” he said.
“When you get people making public statements about what they say they have and what they’re going to do and what their claims are, well, they draw significant attention to themselves, and anyone who does that, whether they’re a celebrity, a politician, a tennis player, a journalist, whoever does that, well, they can expect to be asked questions more than others, before you come,” Morrison said.
Federal Circuit Judge Anthony Kelly said an application to review Australia's visa decision had been delayed, The AP reported. Meanwhile, a lawyer for the government said it agreed that Djokovic should not be deported until Friday at the earliest.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said Wednesday in a post on Instagram that he had told Djokovic over the phone that "the whole of Serbia is with him."
Vučić said Serbian officials were "doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately.”
If Djokovic is deported, he risks dashing his chances of competing in the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 17.
Nadal said Thursday that while he was unhappy about the whole situation, Djokovic was ultimately responsible.
“In some way I feel sorry for him," he told reporters after he won a match at the Melbourne Summer Set ATP 250 tournament, Sky Sports reported. “But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”
“I believe in what the people who knows about medicine say, and if the people say that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine," said Nadal, who is double vaccinated and who contracted Covid himself just last month after having played an exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
He also empathized with those outraged by Djokovic's initial exemption.
“It’s normal that the people here in Australia get very frustrated with the case, because they have been going through a lot of very hard lockdowns, and a lot of people were not able to come back home," he said.
The Victoria state government is requiring that all players, staff members and fans attending the Australian Open be fully vaccinated unless there are valid reasons for exemptions.