Novak Djokovic 'extremely disappointed' after losing deportation appeal

World No 1 accepts chances of defending Australian Open title are over and that he will cooperate with authorities to depart country

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Novak Djokovic said he was disappointed that a court on Sunday dismissed his challenge to a deportation order and accepted his hopes of defending his Australian Open title were over.

The world No 1 released a statement shortly after three Federal Court judges unanimously upheld a decision made on Friday by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds because he is not vaccinated against Covid-19.

“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” Djokovic said.

“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he added.

Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus had been on him since his visa was first cancelled on arrival at Mebourne's airport on January 6.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” he said.

The decision likely means that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against Covid-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported.

Deportation usually occurs as soon as possible after an order unless prevented by court action. The government has not said when Djokovic will leave.

A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.

Chief Justice James Allsop said the ruling came down to whether the minister's decision was "irrational or legally unreasonable.”

Hawke welcomed the decision, saying: “Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world.

“Strong border protection policies are also fundamental to safe-guarding Australia’s social cohesion which continues to strengthen despite the pandemic,” he added.

Djokovic could potentially appeal to the High Court, but not in time for him to compete in the Australian Open, which begins Monday.

“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this,” he said.

The court process that Djokovic had hoped would keep his aspirations alive for a 21st Grand Slam title was extraordinarily fast by Australian standards.

Within three hours of Hawke's announcement on Friday afternoon that Djokovic's visa was canceled, his lawyers went before a Federal Circuit and Family Court judge to initiate their challenge to the decision. The case was elevated to the Federal Court on Saturday and submissions were filed by both sides that same day.

The three judges heard the case over five hours on Sunday and announced their verdict two hours later.

Djokovic, 34, has won the Australian Open the past three years and was a strong favourite to claim a record-extending 10th Melbourne Park crown.

The top seed was set to face Miomir Kecmanovic in his opening match at Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

Tennis Australia had no immediate comment on the star player's legal defeat.

Hawke cancelled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia.”

Djokovic’s visa was initially cancelled on January 6 at Melbourne’s airport hours after he arrived to compete in the first Grand Slam of 2022.

A border official cancelled his visa after deciding Djokovic didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.

After spending four days in an immigration detention centre, Djokovic, 34, won his appeal after the court quashed the revocation before it was cancelled a second time on Friday.

Updated: January 26, 2022, 6:50 AM