Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa has again been cancelled just days before the start of the Australian Open.
On Friday, the Australian immigration minister, Alex Hawke, exercised a personal power to cancel Djokovic’s visa, likely to result in the world No 1’s deportation and putting him out of contention for the grand slam tournament barring an against-the-odds court victory.
The decision follows comments from the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Thursday that he expects authorities to apply the policies of the government that non-citizen non-residents must be double vaccinated or have an acceptable medical exemption.
Djokovic arrived in Australia on the evening of 5 January. He believed that a visa granted on 18 November and an exemption approved by Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer and a Victorian government independent expert panel would be sufficient to enter Australia.
After late-night questioning at Melbourne airport, Djokovic’s visa was initially cancelled by a delegate of the home affairs minister last Thursday, on the basis a recent Covid infection by itself was not sufficient for an exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination requirements.
The delegate concluded that, since he was unvaccinated, Djokovic posed a risk to public health.
But on Monday, a federal circuit court judge restored Djokovic’s visa, concluding it was unreasonable for the Australian Border Force to renege on a deal to give him more time at the airport to address the exemption issue.
Government lawyers immediately put the world No 1 on notice that the immigration minister could still exercise a personal power to again cancel the visa.
Djokovic faced a nervous wait, with questions about his travel in the fortnight before arriving in Australia and attendance at events after his positive Covid diagnosis of 16 December. Der Spiegel also claimed anomalies suggested the positive result could have been negative or dated 26 December.
On Wednesday, Djokovic conceded his agent made an “administrative mistake” when declaring he had not travelled in the two weeks before his flight to Australia and acknowledged an “error of judgment” by not isolating after he tested positive for Covid.
The fresh decision to cancel the visa likely leaves the Australian Open without one of its biggest stars and Djokovic – who was seeking a record-breaking 21st grand slam triumph – unable to defend the title he has won nine times.