Australia leaves door open for Djokovic to play next year’s Open

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SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to play at next year’s Australian Open despite the tennis superstar facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country .

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The world number one player left Australia on Sunday evening after the Federal Court upheld the government’s decision to cancel his visa, ending days of drama over the country’s COVID-19 entry rules and its unvaccinated status.

Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless Australia’s immigration minister agrees there are compelling or compassionate reasons.

“I’m not going to precondition or say anything that wouldn’t allow the minister to make the various calls that he has to make,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday as Djokovic was on his way to Dubai.

“It spans a three-year period, but there is the possibility for [a person] come back under the right circumstances, and it will be considered at that time.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge Federal Court panel dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of securing a record 21st Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, appalling his family and supporters .

In a rollercoaster ride, the world’s best men’s player was first detained by immigration authorities on January 6, released by a court on January 10, then detained again on Saturday pending a hearing Sunday court.

Djokovic, 34, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision but he respected the court’s decision.

“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past few weeks has been on me and I hope we can all now focus on the game and the tournament that I love,” Djokovic said in a statement before. to fly out of Melbourne.

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Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had said Djokovic could be a threat to public order as his presence would boost anti-vaccination sentiment amid Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The Federal Court judges noted that their decision was based on the legality and legality of the Minister’s decision, but did not address the “correctness or wisdom” of the decision. They have yet to release the full reasoning behind their decision.

The Serbian tennis player’s visa saga has fueled global debate about the rights of people who choose not to be vaccinated as governments move to protect people from the two-year pandemic.

Djokovic had obtained a visa to enter Australia, with a COVID-19 infection on December 16 forming the basis of a medical exemption from Australian requirements that all visitors must be vaccinated. The exemption was arranged through Tennis Australia and the Government of Victoria.

The exemption has sparked widespread anger in Australia, which has suffered some of the toughest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated.

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POLITICAL TOUCHSTONE

The controversy has become a political touchstone for Morrison as he prepares for an election due in May, amid disputes over responsibility between his centre-right federal coalition government and the centre-left government of the of Victoria.

Morrison on Monday defended his handling of the situation and differentiated Djokovic’s case from vaccine skeptics within his own government.

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“If you come from abroad and there are conditions to enter this country, you must respect them,” he said. “This is about someone who has sought to come to Australia and is not following the entry rules at our border.”

The saga has also sparked a spat between Canberra and Belgrade, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic calling the court ruling “outrageous”.

Men’s tennis governing body the ATP said the decision “marks the end of a series of deeply regrettable events”, adding that it respects the ruling, a comment echoed by Tennis Australia.

On the tennis circuit, teammates had become impatient for the media circus to end.

“The situation hasn’t been good for anyone. I feel like everything here happened at the last minute and that’s why it’s become such a mess,” said the former world number one. Andy Murray.

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