Update (1700ET): In what some might be tempted to interpret as a sign that Djokovic likely will play in Melbourne next week, the ATP has released a statement, blaming Australia's confusing COVID standards, calling for "clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules."
Read the full statement below:
The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of COVID-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place. Complications in recent days related to player entry into Australia have however highlighted the need for clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules.
In travelling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations. The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak's well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.
Player medical exemption requests are made independently of ATP, however we have been in constant contact with Tennis Australia to seek clarity throughout this process. We welcome the outcome of Monday’s hearing and look forward to an exciting few weeks of tennis ahead.
More broadly, ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic. This is based on scientific evidence supporting the health benefits provided and to comply with global travel regulations, which we anticipate will become stricter over time. We are encouraged that 97 per cent of the Top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year’s Australian Open.
As one Twitter user pointed out, the ATP clearly would miss the money it would be flushing down the drain if Djokovic doesn't play.
ATP and Tennis Australia only thinks about the money theyre getting if Novak plays the open— Kristie (@krngkrngg29) January 10, 2022
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Update (1300ET): After telling the world that he would still like to compete in this year's Australian Open (where he would be jockeying for his 21st Grand Slam win what would be a record for him, shattering Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam wins, which he has currently tied).
"Novak is free and just a moment ago he went to the tennis court to practice," Djokovic's younger brother Djordje told a family news conference in Belgrade. "He's out there to set another record." read more
However, the fight over his medical exemption from COVID vaccination may not be over, as the Australian government. is still considering deporting him.
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Update (0900ET): Tennis pro Novak Djokovic has broken his silence hours after being freed from immigration detention by an Australian judge. In a tweet, the tennis pro said that he would like to stay in Melbourne and try to compete in the Australian Open.
"I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened,I want to stay and try to compete."
I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened,I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans. 👇 pic.twitter.com/iJVbMfQ037
For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong 🙏🙏🙏🙏— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
Of course he has every reason to want to compete given that a win for him would be a record 21st Grand Slam win.
Djokovic is facing the possibility of being deported by the Australian government, which can be done by a single decision from the country's immigration minister. However, if he is deported, he will be barred from returning to the country for three years, as we noted below.
The timing of Djoko's twitter statement coincided with a live press conference in Serbia, at which his uncle, parents and brother were speaking to the media following the judge's ruling. Djokovic's mother Dijana hailed the victory in court as "the biggest win of his career" (although we suspect millions of his fans might not agree with that).
"There has been a spectrum of emotions – sadness, fear, disappointment, there have been moments when he didn't have his phone with him," she said.
"We had no idea what was happening, whether he was well, whether he was ill, whether everything was alright with him. Those are the things that me as a mother I can't explain.
"I want to thank everyone in the world who stood up and supported him, that's what gave him the energy to fight inside that hotel.
"Our people gave him support, he could heard that, he couldn't see it. We all fought to show that injustice was being done.
"Thank God there is still justice on this planet and he has been freed and released. I think this is the biggest win of his career, bigger than any of the Grand Slams that he has won."
His father Srdjan said that "justice has prevailed" and accused Australian border officials of trying to trick his son into signing away his right to enter the country.
"They attempted to persuade him to sign to revoke his own visa, he refused to sign that document because there was no reason for it," he said.
"He had done nothing to contribute to that situation where they are asking him to revoke his visa.
"They gave him no right to communicate with his lawyer, his team, his friends, he was alone with them for several hours. They took his phone and I'm not even going to mention what else happened. They contacted his legal team and they prepared a fantastic defense, a defense that those who wanted to deport him could not match."
The press briefing ended with the tennis star's brother calling an abrupt end as reporters asked about the tennis star's negative test.
Of course, the Australian government has managed to convince enough people that Djokovic is in the wrong for having the gall to travel while being unvaccinated, so cue the orchestrated backlash, despite the obvious absurdity of the notion that Djokovic might be a threat to public health at a time when COVID cases are ballooning in Australia and much of the rest of the world.
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The diplomatic standoff between an increasingly authoritarian Australian government and World's No. 1 Tennis champion Novak Djokovic has just taken an absurd new turn.
After Aussie immigration authorities left Djokovic to rot in immigration detention - confining him to a very modest room at the Park Hotel - for the better part of a week following his arrival in the country (despite Djovokic having all the proper paperwork to enter the country), an Australian judge on Monday decided to reject the government's decision to abruptly cancel the tennis player's visa (after he had already arrived in the country) and ordered that the tennis star be immediately released.
As a result of the decision, which was handed down at 1716 local time (around 0115ET), the Australian Ministry of Home Affairs - which has played a role akin to the antagonist in this saga - must pay Djokovic's costs from his time in detention. And all of his belongings - including, especially, his passport - must be returned to him "as soon as reasonably practicable."
Judge Anthony Kelly explained that his ruling had been made because Djokovic hadn't been given sufficient notice of his visa cancellation, leaving him no time to prepare appropriate materials.
In response to the judge's ruling, government barrister Christopher Tran said the government would comply with the judge's decision, but that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migration Services and Multicultural Affairs (whew that's a mouthful, eh?) would now consider "whether to exercise...[the] personal power of cancelation."
In response to this, Judge Anthony Kelly - who initially made the ruling - insisted that he must be informed if such a response might be imminent. He added that if the Australian minister decided to officially "deport" Djokovic - which is now the government's only option, since the tennis player will likely leave the country before it has time to appeal - that it would mean that Djokovic would be officially barred from entering Australia for three years.
This leaves the Australian government in a difficult spot: the only option left to it is a rather extreme option that might intensify the diplomatic firestorm that has erupted over its treatment of Djokovic. Already, domestic critics of the Aussie government have seized on the opportunity to bash the Morrison government for its "incompetence". Here's former Aussie PM Kevin Rudd:
Morrison just lost his case against #Djokovic. Total incompetence! Like on everything else. If they seriously didn’t want him,why on earth did they give him a visa to fly here? This was conceived as one giant distraction strategy when out in the real world people can’t get tested— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) January 10, 2022
Let's recap: there has been rampant speculation that the main reason the Aussie government decided to abruptly cancel the tennis player's visa once he had arrived in the country for the Australian Open (set to start Jan. 17) because Djokovic had tweeted about being infected with COVID again in December 2021, the reason for his medical exemption allowing him to enter the country despite not being vaccinated.
The government was clearly uncomfortable with this being made public. While it had allowed these exemptions before, the Aussie government is scrambling to shore up public confidence in its authoritarian crackdowns on travel and business, even as the country's extreme measures to combat COVID have done practically nothing to prevent infections from soaring.
Australia just reported nearly 112,000 cases, the equivalent of 1.5 million in the US, and cases are up a mind boggling 808,633% since the Washington Post said they’d almost eliminated COVID with science— IM (@ianmSC) January 9, 2022
I wonder if we’ll ever find out why The Science™ stopped working pic.twitter.com/dCsBFTXQTV
By publicizing that he had been given an exemption over his "natural" immunity, the tennis player was perhaps inadvertently pushing the debate on natural vs. artificial immunity - a conversation that plenty of governments, not just the Australians, have been loath to have.
The world now waits to see how the Aussies will react. Will they double down and deport the world's best tennis player, effectively barring him from the next three Australian Opens? Since they have already whipped millions of people into a frenzy by accusing Djokovic of being a "privileged" athlete wantonly putting the public's health at risk (as if his presence in the country would have any impact on the larger COVID situation), they're now in a difficult spot: if they turn back now, a massive loss of confidence could ensue.
And let's not forget: Djokovic isn't the only athlete who has seen his visa canceled. The Aussie government has been quietly cancelling visas of other athletes who had been granted similar vaccine exemptions.
According to a statement released by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, the government is still considering whether to "deport" Djokovic. The minister's office released a statement below:
Following today’s Federal Circuit and Family Court determination on a procedural ground, it remains within Immigration Minister Hawke’s discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa under his personal power of cancellation within section 133C(3) of the Migration Act. The Minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic's family is preparing to host a news conference in Belgrade at 0600ET.
In the mean time, the judge in the case has just released some documents pertaining to the case, including Djoko's affidavit. The 41-page document includes Djoko's account of the hostile treatment he faced at the hands of the Australians.
Read it below: