Australian government fails in bid to delay Novak Djokovic visa hearing

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Djokovic before departing for his flight to Australia  (Instagram)
Djokovic before departing for his flight to Australia (Instagram)

The Australian government has failed in a bid to delay Novak Djokovic’s visa hearing until after the Australian Open draw is completed.

It comes amid a furore over Covid-19 vaccine rules that has seen him being detained at a Melbourne hotel facing deportation ahead of this month’s Australian Open.

Djokovic has been detained since Thursday morning at an immigration facility in Melbourne after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured to enter the country.

He has appealed against the decision and must wait for a hearing on Monday to discover his fate

Home affairs minister Karen Andrews submitted a request on Saturday for the high-profile hearing to be moved from Monday to Wednesday.

However, Judge Anthony Kelly has now rejected the proposal. .

Tennis Australia has said it will need to know by Tuesday for scheduling purposes if the world number one can compete in the Australian Open.

Kelly, however, has insisted the court will not be rushed, adding: “The tail won’t be wagging the dog here.”

Djokovic’s lawyers have claimed the Serb was granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he contracted Covid-19 last month.

In court documents published on Saturday, it was stated Djokovic recorded a positive test on December 16, and has “not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours”.

According to his legal team, Djokovic was also given with a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia confirming he had a medical exemption from Covid vaccination.

It is claimed that the exemption certificate was “provided by an Independent Expert Medical Review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia”, and that “the decision of that panel had been reviewed and endorsed by an independent Medical Exemptions Review Panel of the Victorian State Government”.

Djokovic’s lawyers added that he was granted an “Australian Travel Declaration” because he was told by the authorities that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia”.

On Friday, it emerged that two other people connected to the tournament have joined Djokovic in being instructed to leave the country by the Australian Border Force.

Djokovic, 34, is under instruction to stay at Melbourne’s Park Hotel, which is used to house asylum seekers and refugees, before Monday’s hearing.

He broke his silence on Instagram, saying: “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”

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