Djokovic awaits Australia visa decision

By Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 11:45 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022
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10:55 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Here's the latest on the Djokovic visa row

Novak Djokovic takes a break during a practice session in Melbourne on January 13.
Novak Djokovic takes a break during a practice session in Melbourne on January 13. (Mike Frey/AFP/Getty Images)

Though Novak Djokovic's visa was reinstated on Monday and he was released from detention, Australia's immigration minister could still revoke his visa again and begin deportation proceedings.

As he awaits a decision on whether he can remain in Australia, Djokovic on Thursday was drawn against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the Australian Open.

Why Djokovic was detained: All international arrivals to Australia are required to be vaccinated — which Djokovic is not — unless they have a medical exemption. The government argued he didn't have a valid exemption to the requirement.

Djokovic said he was under the impression he could enter because tournament organizers had granted him a medical exemption on the grounds he had been infected with Covid-19 in December, his visa had been approved ahead of arrival, and he had been cleared for quarantine-free travel.

Why the judge ruled in his favor: The government hadn't given Djokovic enough advance notice about the cancellation of his visa or time to prepare materials in his defense, the judge said. After his arrival, Djokovic was told he would have a few hours to prepare — but the government decided to cancel his visa before the deadline they had given.

When: Djokovic tested positive in mid-December, and recovered enough to receive a medical exemption from Tennis Australia on December 30, according to court documents. He arrived in Australia on January 5, and was promptly placed in detention. He was released on Monday, January 10. The tournament runs from January 17-30.

What happens now?: Australia's immigration minister could still revoke Djokovic's visa again and begin deportation proceedings. But it is unclear when such a decision could come. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison batted away a question from a reporter about Novak Djokovic's visa status at a news conference in Canberra on Thursday.

Morrison was asked why a decision hadn't been made yet on whether the Australian government would revoke Djokovic's reinstated visa.

"I refer to Mr. Hawke's most recent statement and that position hasn't changed," he said, referring to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who could still decide to deport Djokovic. "These are personal ministerial powers able to be administered by Minister Hawke, and I don't propose to make any further comment at this time." 

9:07 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Here's how the Australian press reacted to the Djokovic saga

Earlier on Thursday these were the headlines from Australian media organizations on the Novak Djokovic saga.

(Sydney Morning Herald/Nine.com.au/Fox News/CNN Illustration)
(Sydney Morning Herald/Nine.com.au/Fox News/CNN Illustration)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison batted away a question from a reporter about Djokovic's visa status at a news conference in Canberra on Thursday.

Morrison was asked why a decision hadn't been made yet on whether the Australian government would revoke Djokovic's reinstated visa.

"I refer to Mr. Hawke's most recent statement and that position hasn't changed," he said, referring to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who could still decide to deport Djokovic. "These are personal ministerial powers able to be administered by Minister Hawke, and I don't propose to make any further comment at this time." 

8:11 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Djokovic "playing by his own rules," says Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece plays a forehand in a practice session during day seven of the Melbourne Summer Events at Melbourne Park on January 09, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.
Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece plays a forehand in a practice session during day seven of the Melbourne Summer Events at Melbourne Park on January 09, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

World number one Novak Djokovic has been “playing by his own rules” and has put his bid for a 21st Grand Slam title at risk by not following Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements, world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas said on Thursday.

“For sure, he’s been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do, especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country,” Greece’s Tsitsipas told India’s WION news channel.

No one really thought they could come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols... it takes a lot of daring to do and putting the Grand Slam at risk, which I don’t think many players would do.”

Asked if Djokovic should defend his title at Melbourne Park next week as his visa saga continues, Tsitsipas said: "There are two ways to look at it. One side of it is that almost every single player is fully vaccinated... and have followed the protocols to play in Australia.

On the other hand, it seems not everyone is playing by the rules... a very small majority chose to follow their own way, which kind of makes the majority look like fools."

Read the full story here.

8:08 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Djokovic hits the practice court as uncertainty in Australian Open rumbles on

From CNN Sport's Aleks Klosok

Novak Djokovi takes part in a practice session in Melbourne on January 13.
Novak Djokovi takes part in a practice session in Melbourne on January 13. (Mike Frey/AFP/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic hit the practice court again on Thursday as uncertainty still reigns over whether the World No.1 will be able to compete at the season-opening Grand Slam of the year.

Djokovic practiced on the iconic Rod Laver Arena with Argentinian Federico Coria behind closed doors under the Melbourne sun.

Coria tweeted afterwards in Spanish: “Thank you @DjokerNole and team” with a picture of the two together on Rod Laver. The 34-year-old was surrounded by members of his coaching team with journalists, camera crews and and photographers watching on.

The nine-time Australian Open winner is poised to open his title defense against Serbian tennis player Miomir Kecmanovic as he bids to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.

7:26 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Novak Djokovic drawn against Miomir Kecmanovic at Australian Open amid visa uncertainty

Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia plays a backhand shot against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan during the Davis Cup Quarter Final between Serbia and Kazhakstan at Madrid Arena on December 01, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.
Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia plays a backhand shot against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan during the Davis Cup Quarter Final between Serbia and Kazhakstan at Madrid Arena on December 01, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

It’s over 15,000 kilometers from Belgrade to Melbourne. Novak Djokovic’s journey to the Australian Open has been certainly quite something.

And in Thursday’s draw for the Australian Open he discovered he will be up against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic. It’s a small world…

Djokovic, looking to win his 10th Australian Open title in Melbourne this month, is waiting for Australia's immigration minister Alex Hawke to decide whether to revoke his reinstated visa ahead of the tournament.

But what about the tournament's other players?

  • Rafael Nadal, who is tied with Djokovic and Roger Federer on 20 grand slam singles titles, is seeded sixth and scheduled to face American Marcos Giron in the first round.
  • No. 2 seed Daniiel Medvedev, last year's US Open champion, faces Henri Laaksonen in the first round, while No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev faces fellow German Daniel Altmaier.
  • In the women's singles draw, there is a potential fourth-round matchup between world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka.
  • Osaka, seeded 13th, will begin her title defense against Camila Osorio, while Barty's first-round opponent will be a qualifier.
  • Other grand slam champions in this year's draw include Iga Swiatek, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep; Emma Raducanu and Sloane Stephens, US Open winners from 2021 and 2017 respectively, have been drawn against each other in the first round.

Read the full story here.

6:04 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Djokovic is "the best player in the history of men's tennis" but he is leaving a "complicated" legacy off the court

By CNN Sport's George Ramsay

Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as he celebrates victory in his Men’s Singles Final match against Daniil Medvedev of Russia during day 14 of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 21, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as he celebrates victory in his Men’s Singles Final match against Daniil Medvedev of Russia during day 14 of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 21, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Even by the standards of Novak Djokovic's eventful tennis career -- replete with trophies and jaw-dropping performances, but also peppered with controversy -- the circumstances ahead of this year's Australian Open have been extraordinary.

“Djokovic’s legacy is massively complicated and getting more so,” said tennis writer Ben Rothenberg.

“For all of his professionalism and his generosity (he’s great with charities and in interactions with his fans) his judgment often gets him into trouble, often straying him ... toward fringe ideas, like his recent anti-vaccine commitment.

So much of tennis is about personalities and grace on and off court, and Djokovic has repeatedly sabotaged himself in these areas.”

Read the full story here:

5:46 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

The key events in Djokovic's Australia visa saga

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic practices at Melbourne Park as questions remain over the legal battle regarding his visa to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, January 13, 2022. 
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic practices at Melbourne Park as questions remain over the legal battle regarding his visa to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, January 13, 2022.  (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

It remains unclear whether Djokovic will defend his title in next week's Australian Open. 

The Serbian world No. 1 was detained in Australia last week over a visa and vaccination dispute, and on Tuesday released a lengthy statement addressing his movements in December 2020.

Djokovic is waiting for Australia's immigration minister to decide whether or not to revoke his reinstated visa ahead of the Australian Open. 

Here's a timeline of events that led up to this:

Jan. 1

  • Djokovic's team submits his travel declaration to the Australian Ministry of Home Affairs, which notifies them that it has been assessed and he is cleared for quarantine-free arrival, according to the affidavit.

Jan. 2

  • Djokovic receives a Border Travel Permit by the state government of Victoria, according to his affidavit, where Melbourne is located and where the Australian Open will take place.

Jan. 5

  • Having left Spain the day before, Djokovic arrives in Melbourne close to midnight. His passport is taken and he is escorted to a small room where he is interviewed by border control officers, according to the affidavit.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic stands at a booth of the Australian Border Force at the airport in Melbourne, Australia, January 5, 2022.
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic stands at a booth of the Australian Border Force at the airport in Melbourne, Australia, January 5, 2022. (Reuters)

Jan. 6

  • Djokovic's visa is canceled by the Australian government and he is taken to a temporary detention facility at the Park Hotel in Melbourne, according to the affidavit.
  • In a news conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirms and reads out the letter sent on Nov. 29 from Health Minister Greg Hunt to Tennis Australia stating that a Covid-19 infection alone in the past six months does not meet the requirements for quarantine-free entry.

Pro-refugee protestors and police officers stand together under an awning at the entrance to the Park Hotel, where Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is believed to be held while he stays in Australia, in Melbourne, Australia, January 7, 2022.
Pro-refugee protestors and police officers stand together under an awning at the entrance to the Park Hotel, where Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is believed to be held while he stays in Australia, in Melbourne, Australia, January 7, 2022. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

Jan. 10

  • Djokovic's hearing commences, with the judge deciding to quash the cancellation of his visa and order his release from detention. The judge, though, says Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke reserves the right to deport Djokovic.

Twitter post by Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic after he won a court challenge to remain in Australia on January 10 2022
Twitter post by Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic after he won a court challenge to remain in Australia on January 10 2022

Jan. 11

  • The Australian Border Force (ABF) is investigating whether Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration ahead of arrival in Australia.

Jan. 12

  • Djokovic says his team has provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify the issue of his travel declaration.
  • However, Australian Border Force (ABF) officials are investigating possible inconsistencies in documents related to Djokovic's December PCR result as well as the tennis player's movements in the days after he tested positive for Covid-19 in Serbia, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

Jan. 13

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison batted away a question from a reporter about Novak Djokovic's visa status at a news conference in Canberra on Thursday.
  • Morrison was asked why a decision hadn't been made yet on whether the Australian government would revoke Djokovic's reinstated visa.
"I refer to Mr. Hawke's most recent statement and that position hasn't changed," he said, referring to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who could still decide to deport Djokovic. "These are personal ministerial powers able to be administered by Minister Hawke, and I don't propose to make any further comment at this time." 
2:29 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Here's what could happen if the Australian government revokes Djokovic's visa again

Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is scheduled to begin his title defense against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic.
Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is scheduled to begin his title defense against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic. (Mark Baker/AP)

Though Novak Djokovic's visa was reinstated on Monday and he was released from detention, Australia's immigration minister could still revoke his visa again and begin deportation proceedings.

Justin Quill, a partner with an Australian law firm in Melbourne, provided some insight on what to expect in this legal standoff.

Why is the decision taking so long? The government "already suffered a big embarrassment on Monday when they had to dramatically capitulate in the federal court," Quill told CNN. "They just can't afford, from a popularity point of view, to have that happen again." That may be partly why Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is delaying his decision — and also partly because, with such high stakes, the government wants to create a watertight case.

Could Djokovic appeal again? Yes — even if Hawke chooses to revoke Djokovic's visa, the tennis star could request a temporary injunction from the judge. During that extra time, he could stay in the country and appeal the decision. But "you can't just appeal because you want to appeal," Quill said — Djokovic would have to show the judge he has valid grounds to protest the decision.

Could the government let Djokovic stay? Hawke might choose to let the tennis star stay in the country if the government doesn't have a strong enough case to deport him. They "might not be able to actually pull the trigger ... because they might think this isn't absolutely bulletproof," Quill said.

When is the decision deadline? There isn't one, from a legal standpoint. But waiting until the tournament is underway to revoke Djokovic's visa would be a PR and political "disaster" for the government, Quill said — so we'll likely see a decision either way before the Australian Open starts on Monday.

2:05 a.m. ET, January 13, 2022

Victoria Premier ahead of Australian Open: "Just get vaccinated"

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. (Diego Fedele/Getty Images)

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews weighed in on the Djokovic controversy Thursday with an unequivocal message: "Just get vaccinated."

"That's what I say to every single Victorian. That's what I've done. That's what my kids have done. That's what families (have done). Ninety-three percent of our community has done this and I'm very proud of them, I'm very grateful," he said.

But, he added, "we've got quite a way to go."

The booster shot rollout is still ongoing, while Australia grapples with record daily new cases. New South Wales and Victoria, where Australian Open host city Melbourne is located, have been particularly hard hit.

"Rather than focusing on one person — and that tournament, by the way, is a lot bigger than any one person, it's called a grand slam for reason — it's bigger than any one person. Just like the safety of our community is bigger than any one person," Andrews said.