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Novak Djokovic arrives at Dubai Airport on his way back to Serbia. Picture: ABDEL HADIT RAMAHI/REUTERS
Novak Djokovic arrives at Dubai Airport on his way back to Serbia. Picture: ABDEL HADIT RAMAHI/REUTERS

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to compete at next year’s Australian Open despite the tennis superstar facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country.

The world No 1 player left Australia late on Sunday after the federal court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa, capping days of drama over the country’s Covid-19 entry rules and his unvaccinated status.

Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years, unless Australia’s immigration minister accepts there are compelling or compassionate reasons.

“I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the calls he has to make,” Morrison said on Monday. “It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for a person to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time.”

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge federal court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open this year.

This is about someone who sought to come to Australia and not comply with the entry rules at our border.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

The saga caused a row between Canberra and Belgrade, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic calling the court decision “scandalous”. Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said on Monday she and Morrison had been in touch with Brnabic during the legal process last week.

“I am absolutely confident that the very positive bilateral relationship between Australia and Serbia will continue on the strong footing it currently enjoys,” Payne said.

Immigration minister Alex Hawke had said Djokovic could be a threat to public order because his presence would encourage antivaccination sentiment amid Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The federal court judges noted their ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision but did not deal with “the merits or wisdom” of the decision. They have yet to release the full reasoning behind their decision.

The Serbian tennis player’s visa troubles fuelled global debate over the rights of people who decline to get vaccinated as governments take measures to protect people from the two-year pandemic.

Reuters

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