Novak Djokovic is to be deported from Australia after the country’s federal court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa.
A hastily convened hearing on Sunday dismissed Djokovic’s challenge against the deportation order, with the three-judge panel ruling unanimously in favour of the government’s action.
The deportation order was the second the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player has faced in Australia in as many weeks, as he sought to stay in Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title.
Apart from a short adjournment to consider any additional orders, Djokovic is expected to be deported imminently, as he does not hold a valid visa to stay in Australia.
Alex Hawke, the immigration minister, had invoked his personal powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa late on Friday. Hawke argued that it was in the public interest to deport the Serbian tennis star on the basis that his presence in the country could excite anti-vaccination sentiment.
Djokovic, who has publicly opposed mandatory vaccination in the past and is unvaccinated, entered the country last week with a medical exemption he believed would circumvent Australia’s vaccine regulations for non-citizens.
However, he was detained at the airport in Melbourne, as the Australian Border Force argued that the tennis star could not provide sufficient evidence to justify his exemption.
His visa was initially cancelled, but that decision was quashed by the courts last week, setting up a closely watched confrontation over whether Hawke would use his powers of office to deport the athlete.
In the latest case, the government did not rely on the rules regarding vaccinations for non-citizens entering the country, which it said Djokovic had breached, nor the mistake on his entry documents that was revealed in his first challenge.
Instead, it argued that the tennis champion’s prominent public status and vaccination could make him an icon for those opposed to Covid control policies, whether he liked it or not.
The government’s lawyers had raised Djokovic’s admission that he had attended an interview with French magazine L’Equipe last month after testing positive for Covid as an example of his apparent disregard of public safety.
The second attempt to overturn Djokovic’s deportation was not an appeal but a review of the legality of the minister’s actions, meaning that the legal bar for his success was higher.
The court made no attempt to determine the merits of the minister’s arguments or “the wisdom of the decision”, said Justice James Allsop, one of the three judges.
Djokovic was due to play at the Australian Open on Monday evening, according to a schedule that was only confirmed late on Sunday. The visa and vaccination scandal has overshadowed the tournament, where Djokovic was seeking to set a record in the sport’s modern era for Grand Slam wins in the men’s game.