Novak Djokovic soon set on his fate in Australia

It looks like a fifth set tie-break. The final legal battle between world tennis number one Novak Djokovic and the Australian government began on Sunday January 16 before the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne.

The three judges of the Court have been hearing since 9:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. in Paris) the arguments of the representatives of the tennis player and those of the government. Allowed to leave the detention center where he was placed on Saturday, Djokovic follows online from the offices of his lawyers the hearing which could have long-term repercussions for his career.

On the eve of the first racket shots of the Australian Open where “Nole” hopes to win a 21e record Grand Slam title, the interim hearing must decide whether the 34-year-old Serb should be immediately sent home and banned from Australian territory for three years, or if he can play the tournament. In this case, he would face, on Monday in the first round, his compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic (78e world player).

In his pleadings filed in court on Saturday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke argued that Djokovic’s presence in the country “is likely to pose a health risk to the Australian community”. According to him, it encourages “anti-vaccination sentiment” and could deter Australians from getting their booster shots, as the Omicron variant continues to spread at high speed.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Novak Djokovic’s stay in Australia could cost him dearly

A visa twice canceled

The presence in Australia of the champion could even “lead to an upsurge in civil unrest”, added the minister, who on Friday canceled Djokovic’s visa for the second time under his discretionary power, citing “sanitary and public order reasons”. Although he described the risk of Djokovic himself infecting Australians as “negligible”, the Minister felt that his “contempt” Passing health rules against Covid is a bad example.

Sunday morning before the Federal Court, the player’s lawyers described the detention of their client and his possible expulsion as“illogical”, “irrational” and “unreasonable”. The government “don’t know what Mr. Djokovic’s opinions are at the moment”, pleaded lawyer Nick Wood, saying that his client has never publicly supported the anti-vaccination movement.

Government attorney Stephen Lloyd responded that the champion was not vaccinated nearly two years after the pandemic began and that he had repeatedly ignored health rules, including failing to comply. isolating while he knew he was infected was sufficient evidence of his views.

The decision of the three Federal Court judges will be virtually impossible for both the Australian government and Djokovic to challenge.

This is the second time that the Serb has been subject to deportation proceedings. He had been blocked on his arrival in Australia on January 5 and placed in administrative detention for the first time. The player, who contracted Covid-19 in December, had hoped for an exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated, but the authorities did not accept this explanation.

A “mistreated” hero

The Australian government suffered a humiliating setback on January 10 when a judge blocked Djokovic’s deportation, reinstated his visa and ordered his immediate release. The immigration minister, however, canceled his visa for the second time on Friday under his discretionary powers, and Djokovic returned Saturday morning to the Park Hotel, the now world-famous austere detention center for illegal aliens.

Read also “There is a feeling of omnipotence in Novak Djokovic”

In a statement on Wednesday, Djokovic admitted to incorrectly filling out his entry declaration to Australia. The 86-time ATP title player, seen in Serbia and Spain in the two weeks before his arrival, contrary to what he declared in the immigration form upon arrival, pleaded “human error”.

This twisty soap opera takes place in a country whose people have endured some of the toughest anti-Covid restrictions in the world for nearly two years, and where elections are scheduled for May. Pressure has intensified around Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused of“incompetence” by the Labor opposition.

The Djokovic affair is also followed assiduously in Serbia where “Nole” is considered a national hero. On Friday, President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia of “mistreat”.

Read also The Serbs are mobilizing for their star Novak Djokovic, in detention in Australia

The World with AFP