Novak Djokovic from Serbia celebrates the win against Marin Cilic from Croatia in the second game of the Davis Cup semi-finals at the Madrid Arena on December 3, 2021.
Sanjin Strukic Pixsell | MB media | Getty Images
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has won his court battle in Australia after his visa was canceled due to his Covid-19 vaccination status prior to the Australian Open.
Australian federal judge Anthony Kelly read the verdict in a virtual emergency court hearing on Monday. “The court orders as follows: Paragraph 1, the delegate’s decision to cancel the applicant’s subclass 048 visa for temporary activities dated January 6, 2022, is repealed,” he said.
This means that Djokovic’s visa will remain valid. He is released from custody and receives back his passport and other items confiscated in custody.
The 34-year-old Serbian national and world number one was arrested at an immigration office last week after arriving in Melbourne before the Australian Open for allegedly violating the country’s strict entry regulations, which require visitors to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic, a vocal vaccine skeptic, had his visa revoked and his passport confiscated after customs officials ruled that he did not have adequate medical justification for a vaccination exemption.
Judge Kelly scored points in Djokovic’s defense on Monday, demanding to know what more the athlete could have done to meet Australia’s entry requirements. The government admitted Monday that it did not give Djokovic and his team enough time to respond after informing him of the cancellation of his visa.
But the saga is not over yet – Australia’s immigration minister can still intervene personally and cancel his visa for new reasons. If Minister Alex Hawke decides to take these measures, Djokovic could face another legal battle and a possible ban on tennis in Australia for up to three years.
History sparked the vaccine requirements debate and put Australia’s tough Covid measures in the spotlight, which saw Australians endured some of the longest and strictest bans in the world. While the case enraged Djokovic fans in the country and around the world, many in Australia resisted the idea that a millionaire tennis player might be able to disregard their country’s laws if no one else could was.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized Djokovic, saying “rules are rules”. But, ironically, Judge Kelly’s justification for his decision on Monday was referring to this very statement: “We all play by the same rules. The reason this Secretary of the Interior has agreed to the delegate’s decision in this process.” [to cancel the visa] should be set aside for the reasons given in the notation. In other words: these rules were not followed. “