An Australian judge demanded to know what more Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic could have done to meet the country’s strict pandemic entry requirements, offerring a ray of hope to the detained tennis ace as he fights deportation.
The 34-year-old world number one arrived in Melbourne last week ahead of Australian Open, hoping to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title.
But guards at the Melbourbne’s Tullamarine Airport decided the unvaccinated star had failed to present a solid medical reason for not being vaccinated.
Djokovic’s visa was revoked and he was moved to an immigration detention facility pending deportation.
In an emergency online court hearing Monday, Federal Judge Anthony Kelly listened to extended legal wrangling about the process, before jumping to the 34-year-old’s defence.
Declaring himself “somewhat agitated”, Kelly said Djokovic had provided evidence from “a professor and an eminently qualified physician” about a medical exemption.
“What more could this man have done?” the judge demanded.
The proceedings were being watched live and anti-vaccine activists shared a link to the livestream, defying a court order by broadcasting the proceedings live on YouTube.
Eventually, the judge pressed ahead without a public livestream, and Djokovic’s team of top lawyers made his case.
The Australian Open gets under way in just seven days, and the nine-time defending champion’s participation now entirely depends on whether Judge Kelly believes the government acted improperly in revoking his visa.
Most foreigners are still banned from travel to Australia, and those granted entry must be fully vaccinated or have an exemption like “acute” illness.
Meanwhile, much of Australia is tightening restrictions to battle an Omicron-fuelled wave of infections.
As per reports, the country is now approaching 100,000 cases a day, having been virus-free for much of the pandemic.