Sports

Novak Djokovic’s visa hearing looms as Australian government request for delay is rejected

Karen Andrews, Australia’s Minister of Home Affairs, submitted a request on Saturday asking to “postpone the final session to Wednesday 12 January 2022” – five days before the tournament is due to start.

No reasons were given for the postponement request, but it came just hours after Djokovic’s legal team submitted a 35-page document outlining the player’s defense against the decision to revoke his temporary visa.

As part of that defense, it emerged that Djokovic was given a medical exemption ahead of the Australian Open because he had recently recovered from Covid-19.

In a letter dated December 7, which was leaked to reporters last week and cannot be independently verified by CNN, the Australian Open organizers appear to have incorrectly informed non-vaccinated players that they may enter Australia for the tournament.

Court documents published on Saturday confirmed that Djokovic – who has previously voiced opposition to Covid-19 vaccines and vaccine mandates – had not been vaccinated upon his arrival in Australia on January 5.

The visa hearing is now scheduled to go ahead at 10am local time on Monday (6pm ET Sunday), with a decision on whether he can stay in Australia and compete in the championship is expected at 4pm (12am ET) .

If the court upholds the revocation of his visa, Djokovic will be deported once appropriate travel arrangements are made.

According to Craig Tilley, CEO of Tennis Australia, it was “contradictory information” that led to exceptions being granted for unvaccinated players ahead of the Australian Open.

In an interview with CNN affiliate 9 News on Sunday, Tiley refused to blame any party. He said Tennis Australia was in contact with the Australian Department of Home Affairs “every week” and that all parties involved were working in a “very challenging environment”.

Tilley added that he would like to see Djokovic play in the Australian Open. The world No. 1 seed is hoping to win a 10th Australian Open title and 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne this month.

Djokovic’s detention at the Park Hotel, an alternative place of detention for refugees and asylum seekers, since Thursday has received widespread attention; His supporters gathered outside to demand his release, while others highlighted the plight of the nearly 30 refugees also held at the hotel.

Novak Djokovic's fans are fighting to get him out of the hotel.  Inside, refugees wonder if they will ever leave
Back in Djokovic’s native Serbia, his parents have staged protests over the conditions they say their son is being subjected to as a “prisoner” at the hotel – a claim Andrews denied earlier this week.

“He’s free to leave at any time he chooses to do so, and Border Force will really facilitate that,” Andrews told ABC on Friday.

In an interview with Serbian national television station RTV Pink on Saturday, the country’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, said Djokovic would be given “gluten-free meals, exercise equipment and a laptop” while he remains in detention.

According to court documents published on Saturday, Djokovic has repeatedly requested that he be moved to a “more suitable place of detention that would allow him to train” ahead of the Australian Open.

Brnabic said she had spoken with Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, but was unable to overturn the decision to keep Djokovic at the Park Hotel while he awaits the outcome of his legal case.

“He’s still at the Park Hotel, but I hope we made his stay more bearable thanks to the concessions we got for him,” she said.

Josh Pennington contributed reporting.

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