Djokovic locked down in hotel awaiting visa appeal result
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A top lawyer has admitted that Novak Djokovic has a “pretty good chance” of competing in the upcoming Australian Open despite his visa troubles. The nine-time champion Down Under had his visa revoked when arriving in Melbourne on Wednesday after being granted a medical exemption. His lawyers have appealed the decision and Djokovic is being held in a detention hotel until the hearing resumes on Monday.
Djokovic announced on Tuesday that he had received “an exemption permission” to play the Australian Open and would be flying to Melbourne.
Tennis Australia confimed that the world No 1 “applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” including an independent panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.
Australian Border Force then found an “issue” with the world No 1’s visa while he was mid-air en route to Melbourne, and he was taken to an airport room when landing late on Wednesday, before being questioned overnight.
Djokovic’s visa was then cancelled after the Serb provided “minimal” proof for his exemption, supported by just one doctor, and could not show more evidence when requested to do so by border officials and the Victorian government.
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The nine-time Aussie Open winner’s lawyers appealed the decision, and Djokovic was allowed to stay in the country until Monday, when the hearing resumes at 10am local time.
With the 34-year-old now in the Park Hotel – a detention hotel in Melbourne also housing asylum seekers, some of whom have been in detention for nine years – it has since emerged that Tennis Australia wrongly informed players that they could obtain an exemption if they had been infected with Covid in the last six months.
Recovery from a recent infection is thought to be the grounds Djokovic used to obtain his vaccine medical exemption from Tennis Australia and enter the country.
But leaked letters sent to Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley by both Australia’s Health Minister and a government Department for Health representative back in November show that Tiley was explicitly told previous infection was insufficient grounds for vaccine exemption.
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Now, a top Australian lawyer has admitted he believes Djokovic could be able to compete at the Australian Open amid the confusion.
Justin Quill, a partner at Thomson Geer Lawyers, told Australia’s Channel 9’s Today Show that a lengthy legal battle could provide the 20-time Major champion with something of a loophole to compete while challenging his revoked visa.
After his visa was cancelled on Thursday morning, the Serb was set to be deported but was granted permission to stay for his appeal, and Quill said he thought there was no chance Djokovic would have been immediately sent packing.
“I think if they had have tried to deport him last night, the judge would have ruled in his favour. The judge was always going to give him or his lawyers at least the opportunity to make their case,” the lawyer explained.
“So, to be frank, it wasn’t a big win, but it’s a good step forward for him, although I’m not sure he will be enjoying his accommodation over the weekend.”
Quill, one of Australia’s most experienced media law practitioners, also thought there was “a pretty good chance he [Djokovic] will be playing at the Australian Open”, by being granted an interlocutory injunction, which would prevent his deportation so the case can be heard properly.
Explaining the reason, the top lawyer also revealed he thought Djokovic would win his case as he said: “I suspect what’s going to happen is – and I suspect not so much because he is going to win his case, but that it is going to be found that there needs [to be] more time, and he will be allowed to stay in the country, compete in the Australian Open, and then the lawyers will argue about this in the weeks and months to follow.
“It will be a bit of an irrelevant case at that stage, but I suspect that’s probably where we are going to land with this.
“The imposition on Djokovic not being allowed to compete is arguably greater than the imposition on the Minister for Home Affairs. So, I suspect the court is going to land there and say, ‘I’m going to allow you to stay in the country while we sort this out over the following weeks and months’.”
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