Tennis star Novak Djokovic has said he wants to stay in Melbourne and compete in the Australian Open after winning his battle in visa court.
The world number one and defending champion could still be deported from Australia as the country’s Immigration Minister reviews the case and could overturn the decision.
Most recent Djokovic: threat of deportation persists despite court ruling
Djokovic, who is now back on the tennis court, tweeted: “I am happy and grateful that the judge canceled the cancellation of my visa. Despite everything that has happened, I want to stay and try to participate. at @AustralianOpen.
“I stay focused on that. I flew here to play one of the most important events we have in front of amazing fans.”
I am happy and grateful that the judge overturned the cancellation of my visa. Despite everything that happened I wanna stay and try to compete @Australian Open
I stay focused on this. I flew here to play one of the biggest events we have in front of amazing fans. ?? pic.twitter.com/iJVbMfQ037
– Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
He added: “So far I can’t say more, but THANKS everyone for being by my side during all of this and for encouraging me to stay strong.”
The photo was taken at Melbourne Park, the venue for the Australian Open, which kicks off on January 17.
The Serbian star was earlier allowed to leave a detention hotel in the city after a judge said the decision to revoke his visa was unreasonable.
He had been held there for four nights in a dispute over whether he was exempt from the rule requiring non-residents to be vaccinated against COVID to enter Australia.
DjokovicS lawyers say a coronavirus infection last month means he can enter the country legally.
The player’s brother told reporters that “truth and justice” had won and the family were “grateful to the justice system”.
Djokovic’s brother appeared with his mother and father at a press conference in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
Novak was “harassed” – brother
“It has been a huge challenge for us as a family,” said Djordje Djokovic.
“We have done our best to respect all protocols. We are very emotional and it is very difficult for us to defend Novak without offending anyone.
“Truth and justice have emerged and I hereby thank the Australian legal system and Judge Kelly, who has been impartial and neutral taking into account all the facts since arriving at Melbourne Airport, including the bullying he suffered. “
Dozens of fans, many of them flying the Serbian flag, celebrated the verdict in court and in Djokovic’s attorney’s office.
Judge Anthony Kelly said Djokovic provided border officials with a medical exemption granted to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels.
“The point I’m a little agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Mr. Kelly said.
The judge overturned the decision to revoke the visa and said Djokovic did not have enough time to respond after being told of the cancellation.
Djokovic “has had COVID twice and is not vaccinated”
The Serbian star had told border officials he was not vaccinated and had been infected with COVID twice, according to an interview transcript revealed in court.
He had never publicly disclosed his vaccine status, but had previously said he would not want to be required to get the vaccine to travel or play.
Airport officials also made him turn off his phone from around midnight to around 7:42 a.m. when the decision to cancel his visa was made, the judge added.
His mother, Dijana Djokovic, told reporters that the family was afraid they would not be able to communicate with him.
“We didn’t know if he was sick or hungry,” she said. “There are some things as a mother that I can’t get over – I think all mothers in the world would understand me.”
Lawyers for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said he reserved the right to revoke the visa again.
“The minister is currently reviewing the matter and the process is continuing,” added a spokesperson.
Djokovic’s lawyers told the court he had recently had COVID and “was entitled to a medical exemption under Australian government rules.”
They filed documents showing he tested positive last month and recovered.
Analysis: case of a “decisive moment for the career”
By Tom Parmenter, sports correspondent
A week before the start of the Australian Open and it’s hard to remember a more chaotic situation.
This extraordinary legal fight is a defining moment in the career of Djokovic, who grew up in Serbia during the conflict in the Balkans.
He played his tennis in an empty swimming pool and occasionally ran for cover when the shelling started.
“It made us hungrier, hungrier for success,” he said previously.
If he has to come back from that, and maybe even win another Australian Open, that would make him the most successful man to ever play the game.
There are plenty of elite athletes who would have backed down at the sight of the cramped room of the quarantine hotel, turned their noses to the served food on offer, and returned to their home countries on the first available plane.
Novak has held on because he thinks he’s been wronged.
He is one of the most determined characters tennis has ever seen and whatever you think of him Djokovic is never easily beaten.
He’s proven so many times – both on the ground and now in Australian courts – that it’s not over until it’s over.
He provided evidence before his trip and when he landed on Wednesday the court heard.
Lawyers also showed that the 34-year-old received a letter from Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer on December 30 stating that he had been exempted.
However, government lawyers said travelers could only be exempted from vaccination if they had been seriously ill with COVID.
“There is no indication that the applicant (Djokovic) was suffering from a ‘serious and acute illness’ in December” when he tested positive, “they told the court.
Questions about images without a mask
The Australian Open is Djokovic’s great chance to get ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the winner of most Grand Slam tournaments.
He has already won the tournament nine times, but if he is sent off he will be banned from the country for three years.
Djokovic’s case has polarized opinions, especially in Australia, which has endured some of the world’s toughest and longest COVID lockdowns.
It also sparked a political row after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “rules are rules” and that he would be on the “next plane home” if his exemption was not valid.
There were also questions in the last few days after photos have emerged of Djokovic – without a mask – with young players the day after his positive test.
It is not known if he knew the results of his test at the time.
On the day he tested positive, the Serbian Postal Service also gave him a stamp, an event he tweeted about the next day.