Novak Djokovic debacle: Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves door open for Australia Open return next year


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Novak Djokovic pictured heading back to Serbia. He left Melbourne to fly to Dubai yesterday after three Australian judges upheld the decision to cancel his visa and deport him

Novak Djokovic pictured heading back to Serbia. He left Melbourne to fly to Dubai yesterday after three Australian judges upheld the decision to cancel his visa and deport him

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to compete at next year’s Australian Open despite the Serb facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country.

The world No 1 left Australia late on Sunday after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa, capping days of drama over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and his unvaccinated status.

Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless Australia’s immigration minister accepts there are compelling or compassionate reasons.

“I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls he has to make,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday as Djokovic was en route to Dubai.

Djokovic says he is 'extremely disappointed' with a court decision to deport him from Australia and prevent him from defending his Australian Open title

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Djokovic says he is ‘extremely disappointed’ with a court decision to deport him from Australia and prevent him from defending his Australian Open title

Djokovic says he is ‘extremely disappointed’ with a court decision to deport him from Australia and prevent him from defending his Australian Open title

Djokovic may be able to return for the Australia Open next year despite his three-year ban from the country

Djokovic may be able to return for the Australia Open next year despite his three-year ban from the country

“It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for [a person] to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time.”

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge Federal Court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open, which started on Monday, dismaying his family and supporters.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to rule out that Djokovic could return in 2023

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to rule out that Djokovic could return in 2023

“If you’re someone coming from overseas, and there are conditions for you to enter this country, then you have to comply with them,” Morrison added.

“This is about someone who sought to come to Australia and not comply with the entry rules at our border.”.

In a rollercoaster saga, the world’s top men’s player was first detained by immigration authorities on January 6, ordered to be released by a court on January 10 and then detained again on Saturday pending Sunday’s court hearing.

Djokovic prepares for his deportation flight from Melbourne Airport

Djokovic prepares for his deportation flight from Melbourne Airport

Djokovic, 34, said he was extremely disappointed by the ruling but he respected the court’s decision.

“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 the tournament I love,” Djokovic said in a statement before flying out of Melbourne.

The player was filmed by Reuters wearing a mask and taking selfies with fans at the arrival gate in Dubai as he waited for his entourage to follow him off the plane.

Djokovic pictured at Dubai Airport

Djokovic pictured at Dubai Airport

Djokovic was escorted by airline staff on a terminal buggy to the departure gate for a flight a few hours later to Belgrade, where he checked in alone.

The debacle caused a row between Canberra and Belgrade, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic calling the court decision “scandalous”.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday that she and Morrison had been in touch with Brnabic during the legal process last week.

Djokovic, who successfully appealed an initial visa cancellation, had it re-cancelled on Sunday in Australia

Djokovic, who successfully appealed an initial visa cancellation, had it re-cancelled on Sunday in Australia

“I am absolutely confident that the very positive relationship, bilateral relationship between Australia and Serbia will continue on the strong footing that it currently enjoys,” Payne told reporters.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had said Djokovic could be a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amidst Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The Serbian's fans show their support for the world No 1

The Serbian’s fans show their support for the world No 1

The Federal Court judges noted their ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision, but did not address “the merits or wisdom” of the decision. They have yet to release the full reasoning behind their decision.

Other players react: ‘The situation has been a mess.’

The men’s tennis governing body ATP said the decision “marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events”, adding it respected the decision, a comment echoed by Tennis Australia.

On the tennis circuit, fellow players have become impatient for the media circus to end.

“The situation has not been good all round for anyone. It feels everything here happened extremely last minute and that’s why it became such a mess,” said former world No 1 Andy Murray.

At at a press conference on Monday, Rafa Nadal said: “I am quite tired of that. I will never be against what the justice system says. If Novak Djokovic is playing here, it’s better for tennis.

“The situation has been a mess.

Rafael Nadal admitted he is 'tired' of the whole Djokovic affair on Monday

Rafael Nadal admitted he is ‘tired’ of the whole Djokovic affair on Monday

“I always had a big respect and a very good relationship with my rivals, no? In my opinion, I believe the life is much better when you have a good relationship with everybody, especially in the locker room.

“That’s my philosophy. With Novak, haven’t been an exception. We always had a great relationship. Honestly I wish him all the best. He’s not the only one that did probably things bad in that case.

“Of course, there is more responsibility on all this terrible situation that we faced for the last two weeks. But of course he is one of those responsible, too.

“So on a personal level, yes, I would like to see him playing here. If it is fair or not that he’s playing here is another discussion that I don’t want to talk anymore about.”

Gael Monfils and Noami Osaka have preferred not to answer.

“To be honest, I just think about the tournament now,” Monfils said.

“Is my opinion going to help anything?” Osaka said. “Yeah, I’ll kind of pass on that. Thanks, though.”

Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky called the events “a very sad day in the history of tennis”.

American John Isner sympathised with Djokovic, saying on Twitter: “Nole always has and always will be class. He’s an absolute legend in my book that has brought so much good to millions around the world. This isn’t right.”

Djokovic has received support from his compatriots, with Laslo Djere saying the saga would change opinions of Australia around the world while Dusan Lajovic labelled the treatment of the world number one “terribly wrong”.

Djere said: “I think the whole world saw it and they probably will have a new or different opinion about Australia. I mean, the guy had the exemption and they still deported him. Something went horribly wrong. It was a true catastrophic situation.

“He’s a great guy and always tries to help others and won the tournament nine times. Yet most of the Australian people wanted that he leaves.

“That’s also in our Serbian mentality [to respond to adversity]. When we get beat down or we are treated in a bad way or how we maybe don’t deserve, we just try, especially him, to be inspired by that and gain strength from that. I’m sure that he will come back stronger than ever.”

Lajovic added: “I think the way they treated him was terribly wrong. I think the decision itself was terribly wrong and also the reason why they did it is for me terribly wrong because, based on just an idea, I don’t think it’s the right way.

“I saw that some of the guys did support him. Many from the top did not but maybe, from their point of view, they know that Novak is one of the favourites for the title, so for them they have one obstacle less in this case.”





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