Tennis: Australian minister still considering whether to cancel Novak's visa

Novak Djokovic was released on Monday, after a court quashed the cancellation of his visa. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS, AFP) - Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is considering whether to cancel tennis star Novak Djokovic's visa, which was reinstated earlier on Monday (Jan 10), a spokesman said.

"Following today's Federal Circuit and Family Court determination on a procedural ground, it remains within Immigration Minister Hawke's discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic's visa under his personal power of cancellation within section 133C(3) of the Migration Act," the spokesman said, in the first comments from the minister's office after the court quashed an earlier visa cancellation.

"The Minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing."

Earlier on Monday, Serbia's parliamentary speaker, Ivica Dacic, said he was concerned Djokovic could still be deported from Australia despite winning his court case over his visa and vaccination exemption.

The world No. 1 was released on Monday, after a court quashed the cancellation of his visa to enter the country, where he is aiming to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open from Jan 17.

"The process should have ended when the court ruled on the matter," Dacic told Happy TV.

"The Australian authorities have obviously chosen to deport him, which also includes a three-year ban on entering Australia. It defies common sense," Dacic, who used to be Serbia's foreign minister, said.

People in Belgrade, Djokovic's hometown, hailed the Australian court's decision to revoke his entry ban, but his family raised concern that authorities could still cancel his visa.

"The latest information is that they want to imprison him. He is with his lawyers on the premises," the player's brother Djordje Djokovic told Prva TV.

He also said that his brother's personal belongings had still not all been returned to him.

Members of the public in Serbia also voiced their support for the player. "He is the greatest. He is not guilty. I think the (court) decision was the right one," Viktor, 20, from Belgrade told Reuters.

"At the beginning, I was furious and angry he was not vaccinated and for allowing that to happen. But at the end this turned out to be a political matter," Vanja told Reuters.

Djokovic's rival Rafael Nadal, who is also seeking a record-breaking 21st Major, said "it is the fairest thing" for his long-time on-court rival to play in the Australian Open.

"Regardless of whether or not I agree on some things with Djokovic, without any doubt, justice has spoken," Nadal told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

After touching down in Australia, Djokovic was taken into an overnight interview with border agents, who decided the champion had failed to present a solid medical reason for not being jabbed.

"I am not vaccinated," he told the official.

Djokovic's visa was revoked and he was moved to a notorious immigration detention facility pending deportation. He spent four nights in the former Park Hotel, a five-storey facility that holds about 32 migrants trapped in Australia's hardline immigration system - some for many years.

An early plea by Djokovic to be moved to a facility where he can train for the Australian Open had fallen on deaf ears, his lawyers said. The court's finding, read out in an online hearing, said the government had conceded that its actions were "unreasonable" because the player was not given the chance to reply fully before his visa was torn up.

In the early hours of Thursday (Jan 6), Djokovic was told he had until 8.30am (2130 GMT Wednesday) to reply to the proposed cancellation of his visa. But instead, the border agent cancelled it at 7:42am.

Had Djokovic been given until 8:30am as first promised, "he could have consulted others and made submissions to the delegate about why his visa should not be cancelled," the judge said.

According to a transcript of the airport interview, Djokovic told the border control agent: "I just really don't understand what is the reason you don't allow me to enter your country."

Though it had no bearing on his court case, Djokovic's claim of a positive test on Dec 16 stirred controversy after it emerged he had attended a gathering that day for the Serbian national postal service, which launched a stamp series in his honour.

Pictures shared by the Belgrade tennis federation showed him at a young players' event in the city on Dec 17. It reported that he handed over cups and prizes to players. No one was wearing a mask.

At a rally in Belgrade, Djokovic's mother Dijana claimed her son was staying "in not human conditions" at the detention centre. "They detained him and even don't give him breakfast, he has only lunch and dinner," she said, quoted by local media.

"He does not have a normal window, he stares at a wall."

Another tennis player - Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova - also had her visa cancelled after obtaining a medical exemption. She flew out of Australia on Saturday (Jan 8) after being held in the same facility as Djokovic.

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