Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial discretion Friday to cancel Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa to play in the Australian Open, the latest twist in a saga that has already included a first visa rejection by a different federal agency, Djokovic’s detention in an immigration hotel, a court reprieve, and the Serb’s later admission he made errors on his visa application.
Hawke said he canceled Djokovic’s visa a second time on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” given Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic, 34, will likely ask Australian courts to once again reverse the government’s decision, but the Australian Open begins next week and it would be a heavy lift to get a judge to intervene over the weekend, Melbourne immigration lawyer Kian Bone tells The Associated Press. “For Djokovic to get the outcomes he needs to play would be extremely difficult to obtain over the weekend,” Bone said. “I think from a strategic standpoint he’s (Hawke’s) really hamstringing Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of what sort of options or remedies he could obtain.”
Djokovic, the world’s current No. 1 men’s tennis player, is hoping to set a record for most men’s singles Grand Slam victories. If Hawke’s decision is upheld, Djokovic will be barred from Australia for three years.