Novak Djokovic won’t be able to defend his 2021 championship title at the Australian Open this year over his alleged “vaccine skepticism.”
Djokovic was immediately detained by Australian border agents when he flew in nearly two weeks ago. He was granted a medical exemption to get around the country’s vaccine mandate at the state level, but the federal government objected.
Australia canceled his visa the next day, but Djokovic appealed the decision and his visa was reinstated on the basis that he had recently recovered from COVID.
The 20 time Grand Slam champion began practicing for the Open, but by the end of the week, his visa was revoked again, this time by Alex Hawke, the immigration minister.
He said Djokovic is “a person of influence and status” and “perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiment.” Hawke claimed that his presence could “lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest.”
Djokovic’s legal team argued that he was “not against vaccination,” and that Hawke had “cited no evidence that supported his finding that Mr Djokovic’s presence in Australia may ‘foster anti-vaccination sentiment.’”
The government said the tennis player had a “well-known stance” on the jab, and cited an interview Djokovic gave, which was published prior to a COVID vaccination even being approved for use.
His lawyers contended that the government’s argument was “irrational” and “there was no evidence at all about anti-vax sentiment being fostered” in the BBC article.
A panel of judges ruled unanimously against Djokovic, who will likely be barred from entering the country for the next three years.
“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,” he said on Sunday.
“I respect the court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” the world’s number one ranked player continued. “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 tournament I love.”
Djokovic flew out of the country to Dubai on Sunday night.