Djokovic: Risk of 'civil unrest' behind visa cancellation decision as Nadal and Raducanu weigh in
14 January 2022, 20:54 | Updated: 15 January 2022, 11:44
Novak Djokovic is back in detention at the Park hotel ahead of his appeal against the re-cancellation of his visa on Sunday morning at the Federal Court of Australia.
After meeting his lawyers for several hours, Djokovic was driven to the same immigration hotel where he spent four nights last week for what he will hope will be the final night.
Time of appeal hearing set
The visa hearing has been set for 9.30am Sunday (10.30pm Saturday UK time) at the Federal Court of Australia.
Djokovic's lawyers argue his visa has not been cancelled because of the public health risk posed by the unvaccinated Serbian player, but because of how he may be perceived by anti-vaxxers in the country.
'Australians have made many sacrifices'
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has himself welcomed the prospect of Djokovic's deportation from Australia, and said: "Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected."
But Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has hit out at the Australian government, accusing it of "harassing" and "maltreating" Djokovic, and asking whether it is trying to score political points ahead of upcoming elections.
The tennis star first had his visa revoked on arrival in Melbourne last week when his COVID vaccination exemption was questioned.
But he won a court appeal against the cancellation that allowed him to remain in the country.
At the time, the Australian government said it would continue to look at whether he could stay, a decision that was at the discretion of immigration minister Alex Hawke.
Visa revoked on public health grounds
Mr Hawke announced on Friday that the Serbian's visa had been cancelled again, this time on public health grounds.
Djokovic's release from detention on Monday resulted in police pepper-spraying his supporters and Mr Hawke cited the possibility of civil unrest, although his lawyers will argue on Sunday that the same could result from his deportation.
There has been criticism of the way the Australian government has handled the situation but public opinion has been firmly in favour of Djokovic being sent home.
"I consider that Mr Djokovic's ongoing presence in Australia may lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest of the kind previously experienced in Australia with rallies and protests which may themselves be a source of community transmission," Mr Hawke said in a letter that formed part of the court filings.
Novak Djokovic tries to explain 'mistake' on Australia entry visa form
At a court hearing, Djokovic's lawyers asked for an injunction to block his removal from the country, saying the reasons behind Mr Hawke's decision are "patently irrational".
Djokovic due to play first-round match on Monday
Djokovic's lawyers had been pushing for a hearing to take place on Sunday, in the hope of a decision being made before the Australian Open begins.
Djokovic is due to play his first-round match against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.
Nadal 'tired' of situation
Meanwhile, there has been growing frustration among other players at the Djokovic saga overshadowing the Australian Open.
Speaking at a pre-tournament news conference, long-time rival Rafa Nadal said: "Honestly, I'm a little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it's important to talk about our sport, about tennis.
"It's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt. But there is no one player in history that's more important than an event.
"Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he's playing finally, OK. If he's not playing, Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him."
Nadal added: "Everyone chooses his road. I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I do not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks."
Djokovic vs Australia: What both sides have said until now
Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker.
Raducanu: Situation taking away from tennis
British tennis star Emma Raducanu said: "I feel like the situation, I feel it has taken away a little bit from the great tennis that's been happening over this summer in Australia."
The US Open winner pointed to Andy Murray reaching the final of the Sydney Tennis Classic, which she said was "pretty incredible".
(c) Sky News 2022: Djokovic: Risk of 'civil unrest' behind visa cancellation decision as Nadal and Raducanu weigh in