Djokovic loses visa appeal, leaves country ahead of Australian Open

By Hilary Whiteman, Julia Hollingsworth, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Updated 3:51 p.m. ET, January 16, 2022
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7:04 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Djokovic flies out of Australia, ending his Australian Open ambitions

Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight on January 16, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight on January 16, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

Novak Djokovic has left Australia on an Emirates flight to Dubai, hours after he lost a legal challenge against a decision to revoke his visa.

The player's ultimate destination is not yet known.

The departure brings to an end a days-long drama revolving around whether or not the Serb, who is not vaccinated against Covid-19, could be admitted to the country under a medical exemption.

The world No. 1 had been scheduled to play Monday night in the Australian Open, where he had hoped to win a record-breaking 21st men's grand slam title.

Read the story in full:

6:17 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Djokovic leaving shortly on Emirates flight -- source

From CNN's Paula Hancocks

World men’s tennis No.1 Novak Djokovic will depart Australia at 10:30 p.m. local time (6:30 a.m. ET) Sunday on an Emirates flight, a source with knowledge of the case confirms.

5:59 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Djokovic supporter in Melbourne "very disappointed" by ruling

Goran Zabic, who was among a group of Djokovic supporters who gathered in Melbourne on Sunday, said he was "absolutely devastated, as well as shocked" by the outcome.

"I really was surprised that a person such as a minister could overturn a judicial system. So, very disappointed, very disappointed,” Zabic told CNN.

He had believed he would get to support Djokovic in the Australian Open, Zabic said. Asked if he had a message for the Serbian tennis star, he said: “Look, not to get political but I'd just like to say, Novak you've won the fight. But looks like you lost the political war.”

He described Djokovic as being a "national hero" to the Serbian people, adding that he was an "absolute legend, as a human and as a tennis player. Extremely important.”

5:33 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

ATP says Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open "is a loss for the game," wishes him well

The ATP has described the decision to uphold the cancellation of Novak Djokovic's visa as "the end of a deeply regrettable series of events" and said his absence from the Australian Open is "a loss for the game."

"Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation," the ATP said in a statement.

"Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport’s greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. 

"We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon."

The ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players, it said.

5:04 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Canadian player Vasek Pospisil defends Djokovic, says: "This is not his fault''

From CNN's Wayne Sterling

Tennis player Vasek Pospisil.
Tennis player Vasek Pospisil. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil, who co-founded the Professional Tennis Players Association with Novak Djokovic, has given his reaction to Australia's Federal Court denying Djokovic's visa appeal.

"Novak would never have gone to Australia if he had not been given an exemption to enter the country by the government (which he did receive; hence Judge Kelly’s initial ruling)," Pospisil tweeted Sunday.

"He would have skipped the Australian Open and been home with his family and no one would be talking about this mess.

"There was a political agenda at play here with the elections coming up which couldn’t be more obvious. This is not his fault. He did not force his way into the country and did not 'make his own rules'; he was ready to stay home."

4:36 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Tennis Australia "respects" the court's decision

Tennis Australia, the national governing body for tennis and organizer of the Australian Open tournament, has said it "respects the decision of the Federal Court" regarding Novak Djokovic's visa.

"As per Grand Slam rules the No.1 position in the draw has been filled by a Lucky Loser," it said in a statement.

"We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all players the best of luck."

4:20 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Djokovic replaced in Australian Open draw

From CNN’s Chris Eldergill

The organizers of the Australian Open have now replaced top seed Novak Djokovic following his failed attempt to halt his deportation from Australia.

The new order of play inserts Salvatore Caruso in place of Djokovic. The Italian will face Serbian player Miomir Kecmanović.

Third seed Alexander Zverev will now move to the center court slot previously occupied by Djokovic. He plays Daniel Altmaier.

4:00 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Now it's time to "get on with the Australian Open"

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the federal court's decision to dismiss Novak Djokovic's appeal on Sunday, saying in a statement that the cancelation decision "was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so."

"I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe," he added. "As I said on Friday, Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.

"Strong borders are fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law."

He thanked the court for handling the issue quickly. "It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer," he added.

3:30 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Immigration Minister: Canceling Djokovic's visa protects the "great sacrifices" made by Australians

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke praised the court's decision to uphold his cancelation of Novak Djokovic's visa, calling it a matter of public safety during the pandemic.

Hawke invoked his personal power to cancel Djokovic's visa a second time on Friday, saying it was "in the public interest."

Read his full statement:

"I welcome today’s unanimous decision by the Full Federal Court of Australia, upholding my decision to exercise my power under the Migration Act to cancel Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa in the public interest.
"Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world. Strong border protection policies are also fundamental to safe-guarding Australia’s social cohesion which continues to strengthen despite the pandemic.
"Australians have made great sacrifices to get to this point and the Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting this position, as the Australian people expect.
"To date around 43 million vaccination doses have been administered in Australia and more than 91.6% of Australians aged 16 years and over are fully vaccinated.
"Accordingly, Australia has been able to commence a step-by-step, safe reopening of its international border as a result of this successful vaccination program."