Melbourne: World No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic held Tuesday a practice session at Melbourne Park. It was his second day out of detention. It was clear Djokovic was focusing on his Australian Open title defence. He is aware that he still faces the prospect of deportation because he’s not vaccinated for Covid-19. However, that did not affect his training session.
The top-ranked Novak Djokovic hit the show courts within hours of winning a legal battle Monday against the cancellation of his visa, based on procedural grounds. He returned Tuesday afternoon for a closed practice, with doors locked and only his support team allowed into Rod Laver Arena.
Aerial images taken by Australian TV networks from a helicopter showed the nine-time Australian Open winner back at work. Video showed Djokovic hitting shots from behind the baseline, taking feedback from his coach, and stretching beside the court with a trainer on a sunny but mild summer afternoon.
Soon after, organisers released the seedings for the Australian Open, and Djokovic was listed at No. 1 for the men’s singles draw.
Djokovic is trying to make up time after spending four days confined to an immigration detention hotel. However, he is conscious he could again have his visa revoked.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is considering exercising his power to deport the 34-year-old Serbian under separate legislation, assessing a medical exemption that the unvaccinated Djokovic relied on to fly into Melbourne and the information supplied in the visa application. The Australian Associated Press reported the decision was not expected Tuesday, after Hawke’s office issued a statement saying the matter was still under consideration ‘in line with due process’.
The prime ministers of Australia and Serbia discussed Djokovic’s precarious visa situation earlier Tuesday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Serbian counterpart, Ana Brnabic, agreed in their telephone conversation to keep in touch over the disputed visa, Morrison’s office said.
“The PM explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Morrison’s office said in a statement. Brnabic asked Morrison to ensure Djokovic was treated with dignity, public broadcaster ‘Radio Television of Serbia’ reported.
“The (Serbian) prime minister especially emphasised the importance of the conditions for training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, considering that Novak Djokovic was not allowed to train in the previous days,” RTS reported.
Djokovic posted an image of himself and three members of his team at Melbourne Park in the very early hours of Tuesday on social media.
“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that,” Djokovic tweeted. “I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans,” he added.
Monte Carlo-based Djokovic touched down in Melbourne just before midnight Wednesday, answering ‘no’ to the question about previous travel on his Australian Travel Declaration form.
But the reigning Australian Open champion was filmed playing tennis in the streets of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, December 25, and training in Spain December 31 — both dates within the 14-day window. The declaration notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offense, and civil penalties are also available.
The opposition Home Affairs spokesperson, Kristina Keneally, blamed the confusion on a lack of planning by the government and said the saga made Australia ‘look like a bit of a joke’ on the world stage.
“It does incredible damage to Australia if Djokovic gets deported,” Keneally told the Seven Network television. “However, if he gets to stay it does incredible damage to our tough border laws and is a real insult to the Australians who did the hard work of lockdowns and vaccination,” Keneally added.