Tennis star Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia, ending a 10-day legal battle that touched on several hot-button issues, including COVID-19 entry rules and the rights of the unvaccinated. Djokovic left Australia shortly after a three-judge panel had affirmed the immigration minister had the right to cancel Djokovic’s visa, dealing a final blow to the efforts by the No. 1-ranked player to defend his Australia Open title. Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision. “I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he said in a statement.
Djokovic had claimed the immigration minister had misused discretionary powers to cancel his visa. The minister had argued Djokovic´s presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment, shifting the focus away from the tennis superstar’s efforts to obtain a medical exemption to not be vaccinated. The court ruling didn’t reflect on the validity of the decision to cancel the tennis star’s visa but rather on the process. “I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” Djokovic said his statement.
The Djokovic saga that has overshadowed the Australia Open, started Jan. 5, when the tennis star landed in Melbourne. He was first ordered detained by immigration authorities the next day only to be released by a court on Jan. 10 and detained once again on Saturday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement that he welcomed the ruling “to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.” Several players took to social media to support Djokovic, who had been scheduled to play Miomir Kecmanovic, a Serbian ranked 78th, on Monday night.