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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1:58 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

BREAKING: Djokovic has lost his appeal

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has lost his appeal against the Australian government's decision to cancel his visa for a second time.

The 20-time grand slam champion had been scheduled to play against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic at the Australian Open, which begins Monday.

It's not yet clear whether Djokovic will still be allowed to compete, with some legal options left.

1:44 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

A ruling is imminent in Djokovic's case against the Australian government

Court is scheduled to resume in the matter of Novak Djokovic versus Australia's Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

We're expecting a decision imminently.

For this ruling, the court revoked its decision to bar the live broadcast of the hearing, due to the high level of public interest.

1:35 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

The court hearing Djokovic's case is expected to reconvene shortly

The Federal Court hearing Novak Djokovic's case has advised it will reconvene shortly.

In a post on its website, the court said it will deliver its orders at 5:45 p.m. Sunday Melbourne time -- or 1:45 a.m. ET.

Full reasons will be published at a later date, the court said.

1:06 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

The waiting game is underway as judges consider Djokovic's case

Here's where things stand on Novak Djokovic's visa saga.

What is happening right now? A hastily convened Federal Court hearing adjourned after lunch. Three judges are now considering submissions made by both parties.

When will we get a decision? That's not clear. Chief Justice James Allsop said the judges would endeavor to give some guidance later Sunday, but he said another hearing may need to be listed for Monday morning.

Isn't that a bit tight? In a word, yes. The Australian Open is set to start on Monday, with top seed Djokovic due to play his countryman Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday night.

What did Djokovic's lawyers tell the court? They're challenging the immigration minister's decision to cancel Djokovic's visa on three grounds. The first and main ground is that the minister failed to properly consider the consequences of canceling his visa.

Djokovic's lawyer Nick Wood said Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision to revoke his client's visa was "irrational" as he failed to consider the "binary alternative" that the act itself could galvanize anti-vaxxers.

Wood said Hawke relied on one news article from January 6 that quoted Djokovic as saying he opposed vaccination in April 2020. But Hawke didn't seek out Djokovic's current views, Wood said.

How did the minister's lawyers respond? Stephen Lloyd, acting for Hawke, said the minister didn't seek his current views because Djokovic's anti-vax attitudes were apparent by his failure to be vaccinated. He said the tennis star had plenty of opportunities to be inoculated before his arrival in Australia.

He added that the perception that Djokovic opposed vaccination was enough to risk inciting anti-vaxxers in the country. He also said the tennis star's apparent disregard for Covid-19 rules meant there was a risk others would emulate his actions and ignore public health orders.

What happens if Djokovic's visa is reinstated? We can assume Djokovic would try to put his court battles behind him and attempt to win his 21st grand slam. That doesn't mean the government will stand aside -- they could choose to cancel it again on other grounds, experts say.

What happens if his visa is revoked? The option would remain open for Djokovic's lawyers to take his case to a higher court, but experts say time wouldn't be on his side, given the tournament is due to start in less than 24 hours.

Is there a potential for another twist? Experts say if Djokovic loses, the court could request the minister grants him a temporary bridging visa which would allow him to contest the Australian Open. The visa gives recipients certain work rights with conditions, and it could be enough to allow Djokovic to compete.

12:55 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Djokovic scheduled to play Monday night -- although it's unclear if he'll be able to compete

Serb tennis player Miomir Kecmanovic will face Novak Djokovic in the first round.
Serb tennis player Miomir Kecmanovic will face Novak Djokovic in the first round. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

While judges deliberate on whether Novak Djokovic will be allowed to stay in the country, the Australian Open has released its schedule for the first day of the tournament.

Top seed Djokovic is scheduled to take on fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic during the final match at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Monday night.

But with judges still deciding whether to overturn the immigration minister's decision to revoke his visa, it's unclear whether Djokovic will be able to make that match.

The schedule was released Sunday afternoon local time, despite the unfinished court proceedings.

Judges are hoping to return a decision late Sunday, though they say the case may need to be relisted for hearing on Monday.

12:55 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

"I think all this could have been avoided... by getting vaccinated," says tennis star Garbine Muguruza about Djokovic

Tennis player Garbine Muguruza.
Tennis player Garbine Muguruza. (Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Two-time grand slam champion and current women's world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza said the Novak Djokovic media frenzy could have been "avoided" if the men's world No. 1 had gotten vaccinated, like other tennis players entering Australia to play in the tournament.

“I think we all want to move on," Muguruza of Spain, told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.
“I think all this could have been avoided, like we've all done, by getting vaccinated, doing all the things we had to do to come here," she said, adding everyone knew the rules "very clearly."
"You just have to follow them and that's it. I don't think it's that difficult,” Muguruza said.

When asked if the Djokovic visa saga affects the average person’s opinion of international tennis players, Muguruza responded with a "yes."

“I don't think that this would help the tennis world or the players because at the end it's a little bit of conflict all the time," she said.

12:55 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Rafael Nadal: Australian Open will be great with or without Novak Djokovic

Tennis player Rafael Nadal.
Tennis player Rafael Nadal. (Simon Baker/AP)

Rafael Nadal told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday that no one player is more important than the Australian Open. That includes himself, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, he said.

"It's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players," Nadal said, but added the Australian Open is "much more important than any player."

Nadal said the tournament would be great "with or without" Djokovic.

When asked about the situation surrounding Djokovic, and what it could mean for his legacy, Nadal said he didn't know.

"I wish him all the very best," Nadal said, adding he had a "good relationship" with Djokovic during his career.

He said he respected Djokovic as a "person and as an athlete" even if he did "not agree with a lot of things (Djokovic) did the last couple of weeks."

“I wish him all the best," Nadal said.

Nadal, seeded sixth, is on the same half of the draw as Djokovic in the Australian Open. But the two will not meet until the semifinals, if both players get that far.

Of Nadal's 20 major titles, just one is an Australian Open victory — which he won in 2009.