The unvaccinated tennis ace, whose visa was initially cancelled before being reinstated by a judge on Monday, is hoping to win his 21st Grand Slam title at the tournament — a record for the sport. Djokovic had previously been granted a medical exemption to enter Australia despite the country’s strict vaccination requirements.
In a statement released to the press, Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke cited “public interest” as the motivation behind the move, claiming the government is “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Djokovic has been an outspoken about his anti-vaccine status, stating he was “opposed” to the process during a livestream in 2020.
The 34-year-old is expected to appeal the decision. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Friday evening, according to the Associated Press.
The revocation comes just days after Djokovic publicly addressed claims he provided false information on travel documents submitted to immigration authorities when he arrived in Melbourne on Jan. 5. In an Instagram post Wednesday, Djokovic blamed his agent for the “administrative mistake” of failing to report the tennis player’s international travel in the 14 days before entering Australia.
Australia has weathered lengthy, months-long lockdowns throughout the course of the pandemic. On Friday, the country reported 130,000 new Covid-19 cases — including nearly 35,000 in the state of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said of the decision in a statement. “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”