Australia Expected To Rule On Novak Djokovic On Friday; Tennis Star Would Appeal Effort To Deport Him

By Adam Zagoria, Contributor
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 02: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates a point during his Men's Singles Final match against Dominic Thiem of Austria on day fourteen of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 02, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images) Getty Images

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is expected to rule on Novak Djokovic’s fate on Friday, and the Serbian world No. 1 would immediately appeal a ruling aimed at deporting him, according to Australia’s The Age newspaper.

Quoting “one Liberal Party source speaking on the condition of anonymity,” the paper said “the government was strongly leaning towards cancelling the visa.” If it does, Djokovic’s legal team would reportedly appeal and hope to be heard in court over the weekend, allowing Djokovic to begin playing in the Australian Open next week. The tournament starts Monday and the nine-time champion was installed as the No. 1 seed in Thursday’s draw ceremony that was reportedly delayed an hour.

“It’s a big call, that’s why it’s taking so long,” Australian sports broadcaster Eddie McGuire told Patrick McEnroe on the “Holding Court” podcast.

McGuire said Djokovic had become a political cause célèbre with various factions inside Australia frantically debating what to do about the unvaccinated superstar who has entered a country that has endured more than 260 days of lockdowns and where over 90 percent of the population is vaccinated.

“Every time that Novak Djokovic hits a winner if he stays in Australia, a lot of people and particularly the leaders of the opposition will be saying that he’s actually not hitting a tennis ball, he’s hitting the Prime Minister of Australia [Scott Morrison] square in the face,” he said. “And the Australian people.

“That will be the way it’ll be pushed from certain areas of society.”

He added: “This is not a decision for the government today, this is a decision that is going to go every time he walks out on the court for the next two weeks, and of course the fallout beyond then.”

McGuire also said that Australian officials told Djokovic upon his arrival last week that if he had agreed to get one vaccination shot, they would have cleared him to enter the country because they would have counted his positive Covid-19 test last month as one vaccination as well.

“Had Novak Djokovic on Sunday or Monday acquiesced to taking a vaccination in Australia, they would have said Dec. 16 you had Covid, we’ll tick that off as one one vaccination, you’ve got the second one, all clear you can play,” he said. “He hasn’t done that.”

The Australian Open has capped ticket sales at 50 percent due to Covid concerns. It remains to be seen how fans will react to Djokovic if he plays and competes for a record 21st Grand Slam title, but with 97 percent of ATP players now vaccinated, some of his fellow players have come out to disparage his behavior.

“He has been playing by his own rules,” world No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas said. “No one would have thought: 'I can come to Australia unvaccinated and not have to follow the protocols they gave me'. It makes the majority look like they are all fools.”

Rafael Nadal, who like Djokovic is seeking a record 21st Grand Slam title Down Under, was drawn to meet Djokovic in the semifinals. He has a been a staunch advocate of vaccines and recently said Djokovic could be playing “without a problem” if he got vaccinated.

“I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem,” Nadal said.

“He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.

“Of course I don't like the situation that is happening. In some way, I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”

PROJECTED MEN’S QUARTERFINALS

With the draw out, here are the projected men’s quarterfinals:

[1] Novak Djokovic v [7] Matteo Berrettini

[3] Alexander Zverev v [6] Rafael Nadal

[8] Casper Ruud v [4] Stefanos Tsitsipas

[5] Andrey Rublev v [2] Daniil Medvedev


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