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Australia cancels Novak Djokovic visa again

Melbourne | The Australian government relaunched the Djokovic saga on Friday by canceling his visa once again, which could lead, barring a twist, to the expulsion before the start of the Australian Open on Monday of the Serbian who wanted to enter the country without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The 34-year-old Serb continued to train on Friday in Melbourne in hopes of securing a 10th Australian Open title and a 21st Grand Slam victory, which would be a record.

Alas, at the end of the day, the Minister of Immigration issued a press release announcing the cancellation, for the second time, of the Australian visa of the No. 1 worldwide. A decision taken “on grounds of health and public order”, said Alex Hawke, who said he was “firmly committed to protecting the Australian borders, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“Nole” had already seen his visa canceled on his arrival in Melbourne on January 5 and he had been placed in a detention center. But his lawyers won a resounding victory on January 10, getting a judge to reinstate his visa and order his immediate release.

Djokovic admitted to having incorrectly completed his declaration of entry into Australia, and not having followed the isolation rules after testing positive for Covid-19 in December – contamination he hoped would allow him to benefit an exemption to enter Australia without being vaccinated.

On Thursday, the Australian Open included Djokovic in the tournament table and the draw awarded him the Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, 78th in the world, as opponent in the first round.

But the world No.1 was still under threat of deportation in the name of the discretionary power of the Minister of Immigration, finally employed Friday after a five-day suspense.

Dreams of a 10th title in Melbourne are fading, especially as this cancellation implies that Djokovic will be banned from entering the country for three years, except in certain exceptional circumstances.

This saga around the tennis champion carries a very strong political charge in Australia, whose inhabitants have endured some of the strictest anti-Covid restrictions in the world for almost two years, and where elections are scheduled by May.

“Its own rules”

While the government’s decision was delayed, pressure mounted around Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused of “incompetence” by Labor opposition leader Kristina Keneally, noting that the Serb had obtained his 58-day visa. earlier.

“The Morrison government is simply incompetent. It’s a joke, ”she tweeted.

Some tennis players argued for Djokovic to participate in the Open, but others were much more critical.

Novak Djokovic “played by his own rules” by choosing not to be vaccinated before the Australian Open and “made the majority of players look like idiots”, estimated Thursday the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, world No.4 , in an interview with Indian media WION.

“It takes a lot of nerve to do it and it puts the whole tournament at risk … I don’t think a lot of players would do that,” he added.

As the Omicron variant spreads in Australia, Djokovic’s behavior after he tested positive for coronavirus in Serbia on December 16 has come under close scrutiny.

The player notably took part in public events, without a mask, on December 16 and 17 in Belgrade, but claimed that he did not yet know he was positive at that time.

In a long message published Wednesday on Instagram, however, he admitted an “error in judgment” for having received, knowing that he was asymptomatic, the French daily “L’Équipe” for an interview on December 18.

Djokovic also pleaded “human error” to explain how a wrong box in his entry form to Australia was checked.

This document shows that he has attested not to have traveled in the 14 days preceding his arrival. However, he was in Serbia and then in Spain.