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Novak Djokovic in Australian Open draw despite visa uncertainty

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has been drawn to play in the Australian Open despite ongoing uncertainty over whether his visa will be cancelled again by the government.

The world number one men’s player will defend his title against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

However Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still considering using his powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa, a spokesman said.

Djokovic was temporarily barred entry last week because he is not vaccinated.

He said his Covid infection in mid-December met the conditions for foreigners entering Australia, but authorities cancelled his visa on the basis that it was not a valid exemption.

Djokovic, 34, was held in immigration detention in Melbourne for five days while he challenged the deportation order. On Monday a court overturned the government’s visa cancellation after finding that immigration officials had not followed proper procedure.

But Mr Hawke said that he was still considering cancelling the Serbian tennis star’s visa for other reasons, which could include “character grounds” on the basis that he misled the Australian Border Force.

Djokovic admitted on Wednesday that he had also broken Covid isolation rules in Serbia after meeting up with people when he knew he was positive with the virus.

He also admitted he had made errors on his travel form into Australia, by ticking a box declaring he had not travelled anywhere 14 days prior to entering the country, when in fact he had been to Spain.

Djokovic said this was a “human error” made by his agent. However a false declaration on a travel form – accidental or not – is grounds for a visa cancellation.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to say when a decision might come from his government, quashing press gallery reports that it would be made imminently.

“These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time,” he said at a press briefing.

Intense criticism has been aimed at both Djokovic and Australian authorities over the visa row. Australians, and in particular those living in the city of Melbourne where the Australian Open will take place, have had to endure some of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns during the pandemic.

Djokovic has won 20 Grand Slam titles, a record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. If he were to add to his tally of nine Australian Open wins he would become the most successful male player in history.

However many have pointed out that the rich and famous have been allowed greater freedoms to travel to and from the country than ordinary Australians.

The comments under an Australian Open tweet about Djokovic and Kecmanovic has attracted hundreds of comments showing how divided tennis fans are over the ordeal.

“Please send him home! I’ll be boycotting his match if he is scheduled to play for the session I have a ticket for,” one Twitter user wrote.

But a supporter tweeted: “Now it’s time to show everyone who is the best tennis player in the world. Come on Champ, go Novak!”

Source: BBC Sport

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