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Novak Djokovic’s appeal is transferred to a higher court

Melbourne, Australia –

Novak Djokovic’s effort to play at the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19 was moved to higher court on Saturday as the No.1-ranked tennis player appealed the second cancellation of his visa.

Djokovic was not seen on the publicly available online stream for the 15-minute procedural hearing, which began just two days before he plays his first game of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

Judge David O’Callaghan ruled that lawyers representing Djokovic and the government should submit written arguments later on Saturday, and he has scheduled another hearing for Sunday morning.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke blocked the 34-year-old Serb’s visa, which was initially revoked when he landed at Melbourne Airport last week. But he was reinstated by a judge on Monday on procedural grounds because Djokovic was not allowed to have a lawyer with him at the airport.

Deportation from Australia may result in a three-year re-entry ban, although this may be lifted, depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic admitted that his travel declaration was incorrect as it did not state that he had been to multiple countries in the two weeks prior to his arrival in Australia.

He has a record nine Australian Open titles, including the last three consecutive ones, part of his total of 20 Grand Slam championships. He is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for most by a man in history.

In a social media post on Wednesday that was his most extensive public comments of the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “human error and certainly not deliberate.” .

In that same message, Djokovic said he had given an interview and a photo op with a French newspaper in Serbia despite knowing he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier. Djokovic tried to use what he says was a positive test taken on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to circumvent the vaccine requirement on the grounds that he already had COVID-19.

Hawke said he canceled the visa for “reasons of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement added that the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The main thrust of Hawke’s appeal of the decision, according to the athlete’s attorneys, was that it was not based on the health risk Djokovic might pose by not being vaccinated, but on how it might be perceived by anti-vaxxers.

Morrison himself hailed Djokovic’s impending expulsion. The episode struck a chord in Australia, and particularly in the state of Victoria, where residents endured hundreds of days of lockdown at the height of the pandemic and adult vaccination rates exceed 90%.

Australia is facing a massive increase in virus cases caused by the highly transmissible variant of Omicron. The country reported 130,000 new cases on Friday, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state. Although many infected people do not get as sick as in previous outbreaks, the outbreak continues to strain the health care system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It has also disrupted workplaces and supply chains.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect that the outcome of those sacrifices is protected,” Morrison said. . “This is what the minister is doing by taking this step today.

His supporters in Serbia were appalled by the visa cancellations.

Everyone at the Australian Open – including players, their support teams and spectators – must be vaccinated. Djokovic is not vaccinated.

His exemption was approved by the Victorian state government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in the country on January 5.

Djokovic spent four nights in a migrant detention hotel before a judge overturned the decision. This decision allowed him to move freely around Australia and he trained daily at Melbourne Park.

“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “It just seems like it’s been dragging on for quite a long time now.”

Under Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev would fill Djokovic’s place in the squad.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule was released, he would be replaced on the pitch by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but enters the main draw due to the exit of another player before the competition has started.

And if Djokovic plays in one match – or more – and then is told that he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent will simply advance to the next round and there will be no replacement.