Djokovic ‘utterly confused’ by visa ordeal

Karen Sweeney, Darren Walton and Ian Chadband |

Novak Djokovic is said to “utterly confused” as the world No.1’s fight to avoid deportation to Serbia resumed amid global attention in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne. 

Technical issues forced a half-hour delay to the start of the hearing on Monday after a live stream link provided by the court crashed because of the overwhelming number of people trying to view proceedings.

But when it finally did proceed, the judge deciding if Djokovic can defend his Australian Open crown this month questioned what more the nine-time champion could have done to enter Australia.

The 34-year-old Serbian arrived late on Wednesday after declaring he had a medical reason not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

But he has been in immigration detention since Thursday morning after having his visa cancelled, with federal government officials arguing Djokovic didn’t have an exemption against being vaccinated.

But Nick Wood SC said Djokovic declared before boarding his flight to Australia from Dubai that he had a medical contraindication provided by Tennis Australian and was able to provide evidence of that.

“What more could this man have done?” Judge Anthony Kelly asked.

“Here, a professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption.

“Further to that, that medical exemption and the basis on which it was given, was separately given by a further independent expert specialist panel established by the Victorian state government.”

The judge said those documents were in the hands of the immigration department delegate who made the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa on behalf of Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.

Wood said Djokovic was “utterly confused” by the situation because he had done everything that was asked of him.

Documents released by the Federal Court on Saturday show Djokovic contracted COVID-19 on December 16 and was free of symptoms before he arrived in Australia.

His lawyers will argue that he met the criteria for a temporary exemption under Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines and that he was denied procedural fairness during the decision to revoke his visa.

The saga has divided the tennis world and left Djokovic’s quest for a record 21st grand slam title at Melbourne Park in turmoil.

Andy Murray is the latest big name to show concern for Djokovic while declaring the whole episode is “really bad” for tennis.

Murray, who has lost four Open finals to Djokovic, said he was quite dismayed by the events of the past five days.

“I think everyone is shocked by it to be honest,” the former world No.1 told reporters.

“I’m going to say two things on it just now.

“The first thing is that I hope that Novak is OK. I know him well, and I’ve always had a good relationship with him.

“The second thing I’ll say on it is it’s really not good for tennis at all, and I don’t think it’s good for anyone involved. I think it’s really bad.

“Some stuff has come out that really doesn’t look good, either. I want to hear all the facts first before giving all of my thoughts on it.”

Murray’s thoughts have been echoed by other tennis stars like Australia’s most high-profile men’s player Nick Kyrgios, who said: “I’m feeling for him now. Like it’s not really humane, is it, what’s going on?”