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Game, set, match: Djokovic leaves Australia after court ruling to deport him

A deportation order usually includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.
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Novak Djokovic arrived in Dubai early Monday after being deported from Australia, in a drawn-out saga that shook the tennis world.

Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked male tennis player, left on the eve of the Australian Open, which starts Monday. As a result, he will be unable to defend his title and win a record 21st singles major title for now.

Djokovic, 34, had no choice but to leave the country after three federal judges dismissed his challenge to a deportation order Sunday and upheld Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision Friday to cancel his visa on public interest grounds.

Hawke confirmed on social media that Djokovic had “departed Australia.”

A deportation order usually includes a three-year ban on returning to the country, except in certain circumstances. If that were the case for Djokovic, he would be 37 when he was next allowed to compete in the Australian Open.

Hoping to win his 21st Grand Slam tournament, he had been set to play his fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanović, the No. 78 player in the world. Salvatore Caruso of Italy, ranked 150, will take his place.

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Djokovic said in a statement after the ruling that he was “extremely disappointed” but that he would cooperate with authorities on his departure.

He said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus had been on him since his visa was first canceled on his arrival at Melbourne’s airport on Jan. 6.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” he said.

Djokovic landed in Dubai after a 13 1/2-hour Emirates flight from Melbourne, the Associated Press reported. It was not immediately clear where Djokovic planned to travel next.

The furor has reignited the debate over the rights of people who opt to remain unvaccinated against Covid-19.

Court filings last week confirmed that Djokovic has not been vaccinated, and he has said the matter is one of personal choice.

Australian border restrictions allow entry to non-Australian travelers only if they have been fully vaccinated. Djokovic had argued that he received a medical exemption to enter the country because he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 in his homeland, Serbia, last month and had since recovered.

Djokovic appealed a decision by border officials, who rejected his exemption and canceled his visa. It was later reinstated on procedural grounds.

However, he admitted Wednesday that his travel form to get into Australia included a false statement and that he had failed to isolate immediately after he tested positive last month, adding to the scrutiny from Australian officials and the world’s media.

Hawke, the immigration minister, then canceled Djokovic’s visa for a second time Friday “on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”

Image: Novak Djokovic federal court hearing, in Melbourne
Novak Djokovic walks through Melbourne Airport, where he boarded a flight Sunday night.Loren Elliott / Reuters

Three Federal Court judges upheld the decision Sunday. Chief Justice James Allsop said their ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of Hawke’s decision in the context of the three grounds of appeal Djokovic’s team lodged.

Hawke welcomed the court’s ruling. He said that Australians had made great sacrifices and that the government was committed to protecting those sacrifices. Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed his comments.

Speaking to 2GB radio on Monday, Morrison left open the possibility that Djokovic could return for the Australian Open next year.

While deportation generally means a three-year ban, he said, “there is the opportunity for them to return under the right circumstances and that would be considered at the time.”

The scandal has outraged many Australians as an outbreak of the more transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus fuels record levels of infections

It has also led to diplomatic tensions between Australia and Serbia, where Djokovic’s family and national leaders criticized Australian authorities over their handling of the case. 

“It’s not Novak that is humiliated,” President Aleksandar Vučić told reporters after the ruling Sunday. “I think Australian authorities humiliated themselves.”