Novak Djokovic left Australia late Saturday night, officially putting an end to his legal battle to avoid deportation and dashing the unvaccinated tennis star’s hopes of playing in the Australian Open.
Djokovic left at approximately 11 p.m. local time on an Emirates flight from Melbourne to Dubai, ESPN reports. Djokovic’s deportation came after his visa was revoked a second time due to “misinformation” on his travel form, which the tennis star said was an “administrative mistake.”
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” Djokovic said in a statement. “I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison supported the dismissal of Djokovic’s appeal, noting that the decision “was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”
“I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe,” Morrison added. “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. Strong borders are fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law… It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer.”
Although vaccinations against Covid-19 are needed to enter Australia as part of the country’s border entry requirements, Djokovic — an outspoken anti-vaxxer who said “Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine,” during a livestream in 2020 — received “exemption permission” to enter Australia for the tennis tournament.
That visa was twice challenged in court; after it was initially revoked, a judge reinstated the visa, only for it to be revoked again after it was discovered that Djokovic — who had Covid-19 in December — failed to report his international travel in the 14 days before entering Australia.
Number One-ranked Djokovic was looking to win his 21st grand slam singles title, which would surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s records who are all tied at 20, at the tournament that starts tomorrow, Jan. 17.
“Today’s decision to uphold Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events. Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation,” the Association of Tennis Professionals said in a statement. “ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players.”