World tennis number one player Novak Djokovic of Serbia will not be able to defend his Australian Open crown after his visa was canceled for a second time by local migration authorities.
Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open a record nine times, has already landed in Dubai. He had tried to be allowed into Australia despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, which is mandatory for all foreigners wishing to enter the country.
Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds. There was the possibility of a further legal challenge but it was confirmed half an hour after the ruling that Djokovic was not seeking that option.
Djokovic had been scheduled to play Monday, but has now been replaced in the draw by Italian Salvatore Caruso.
I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today's court hearing. I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this, said Djokovic in a statement. I'm extremely disappointed, he added. He also faces a potential three-year ban from travelling to Australia.
I respect the court's ruling and I'll cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country, he concluded.
Government lawyers admitted Djokovic's presence risked whipping up anti-vaccination sentiment in the country. This cancellation decision was made on health, safety, and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so, said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe, he added.
In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic, said he encouraged Djokovic to return to his country, where he is always welcome.
It remains to be seen where Djokovic will play next, with Australia far from the only country where he is likely to experience travel issues if he continues to refuse the vaccine.