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Djokovic resumes training for Australian Open

World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia. Source: Reuters.

MELBOURNE: Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic said he was still hoping to compete in the Australian Open after winning a stunning victory over the Australian government in his visa battle.

The ruling by a judge in Melbourne overturned the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa on Covid-19 health grounds, and ended the unvaccinated player’s detention in an immigration facility, potentially clearing the way for him to play in the tournament that starts next Monday.

The ATP, which runs the men’s tennis tour, responded by saying: “The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.”

His mother Dijana, speaking at a press conference in Belgrade, called it “the biggest victory in his career, bigger than all his grand slams”. Djokovic tweeted from Melbourne: “Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that.”

In an emergency online court hearing, the judge ordered that the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa “be quashed”. He instructed that the 34-year-old men’s world number one “be released immediately and forthwith from immigration detention”.

READ MORE: Australian judge reinstates Novak Djokovic’s visa

The ATP said in a statement that it “fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of COVID-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place.” It added, “In travelling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption.”

His family said justice had been served. “Truth and justice came to the light. I would like to thank the justice system of Australia,” said his brother Djordje in Belgrade, adding that Djokovic had been able to train since being released from detention.

Djokovic posted a photo on social media showing him on court in tennis gear in Melbourne with coach Goran Ivanisevic and other members of his support staff.

Rafael Nadal, one of Djokovic’s main rivals for the title, said “it is the fairest thing” for his rival to play in the Australian Open. “Regardless of whether or not I agree on some things with Djokovic, without any doubt, justice has spoken,” Nadal told a Spanish radio station.

The ruling marked an extraordinary setback for Australia’s conservative government, which has imposed strict border restrictions for the past two years to halt the spread of Covid. Australian taxpayers will be asked to pay costs for Djokovic’s high-powered legal team. 

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday ahead of the Australian Open hoping to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. The government’s lawyer told the court that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may decide to use his “personal power of cancellation” despite the player’s legal victory.

After touching down in Australia last week, Djokovic was taken into an overnight interview with border agents, who decided the champion had failed to present a solid medical reason for not being jabbed.

“I am not vaccinated,” he told the official. Djokovic’s visa was revoked and he was moved to a notorious immigration detention facility pending deportation.

He spent four nights in the former Park Hotel, a five-storey facility that holds about 32 migrants trapped in Australia’s hardline immigration system. The court’s finding said the government had conceded that its actions were “unreasonable” because the player was not given the chance to reply fully before his visa was revoked.

 

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