Djordje Djokovic, brother of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on January 10 2022. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SRDJAN STEVANOVIC
Djordje Djokovic, brother of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on January 10 2022. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SRDJAN STEVANOVIC

Melbourne — World tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic was released from Australian immigration detention on Monday after winning a court challenge to remain in the country, but the government said it was still considering another move to deport him.     

Judge Anthony Kelly ruled the federal government’s decision last week to revoke the Serbian tennis star’s visa amid a row over his medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination requirements was “unreasonable” and ordered his release.

“Novak is free and just a moment ago he went to the tennis court to practice,” Djokovic’s brother Djordje told a news conference held by his family in Belgrade. “He’s out there to set another record.”

Djokovic himself, who arrived in Australia last week in pursuit of a record 21st Grand Slam title at the upcoming Australian Open, spent the day at his lawyers’ chambers and did not immediately appear in public or make any statement after the ruling.

There were chaotic scenes on Monday evening  as supporters who had gathered outside the lawyers’ office chanting “Free Novak!” surged around a black car with tinted windows leaving the building, while police at one stage used pepper spray as they tried to clear a path.

It was unclear if Djokovic was in the vehicle, though police later told reporters outside that he had left.

A spokesperson for immigration minister Alex Hawke said he was considering using broad discretionary powers he is given by Australia’s Migration Act to again revoke Djokovic’s visa.

“The minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

The controversy has been followed around the world, creating diplomatic tension between Belgrade and Canberra and sparking heated debate over national vaccination rules.

Serbia’s parliamentary speaker, Ivica Dacic, said he was concerned that Hawke could still deport Djokovic, a move that would bar the 34-year-old from the country for three years.

“The process should have ended when the court ruled on the matter,” Dacic, a former foreign minister, told Serbia’s Happy TV. “It defies common sense.”

Spanish rival Rafa Nadal called the drama surrounding the build-up to the tournament, which starts on January 17, a “circus”.

“Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, justice has spoken and has said that he has the right to participate in the Australian Open and I think it is the fairest decision to do so,” Nadal told Spanish radio Onda Cero.

Judge Kelly earlier told the court it appeared Djokovic had sought and received the required medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination on the basis that he had contracted the virus in December. He had presented evidence of this before he travelled to Melbourne and when he landed on Wednesday evening.

“What more could this man have done?” Kelly said.

The saga kicked off when Djokovic posted a photo of himself leaning on his luggage on Instagram last Tuesday, telling the world he was headed to Australia to compete in the Open with a vaccination exemption.

Reuters

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