Djokovic loses deportation appeal, leaves country ahead of Australian Open

Novak Djokovic
Posted at 7:37 AM, Jan 16, 2022

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic has left Australia after losing his final bid to avoid deportation and play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19.

A court earlier unanimously dismissed the No. 1-ranked tennis player's challenge to cancel his visa.

The 34-year-old Serb said he was "extremely disappointed" by the court ruling but respected it.

He left on a flight to Dubai, the same United Arab Emirates city from which he departed for Australia a little over a week ago.

In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic criticized the court hearing as "a farce with a lot of lies." Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the ruling will help keep Australians safe.

The decision caps a tumultuous week for the world's top-ranked tennis player. Djokovic arrived in Melbourne late last week, and officials immediately revoked his visa because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. He was detained in a hotel but not deported.

Four days later, a court reinstated Djokovic's visa on the grounds that Tennis Australia had granted him an exemption because of a recent COVID-19 infection.

Amid swirling accusations about the timeline of his infection, Djokovic released a statement on Instagram Wednesday admitting that he had conducted an interview with a French newspaper just two days after testing positive for the virus, something that he admitted was an "error."

On Friday, Australia's immigration minister revoked Djokovic's visa a second time, leading to his failed appeal this weekend.

Djokovic has been outspoken in his opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations in general. According to the BBC, in April 2020, Djokovic told fans that he was "opposed to vaccination." The outlet also reports that he's pushed dubious scientific claims throughout his career.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row. He's currently tied for first all-time with 20 career Grand Slam titles.