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A night in detention for Djokovic, court hearing on Sunday

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic practices on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park, in Melbourne, Australia, January 11, 2022. Kelly Defina/Pool via REUTERS

Novak Djokovic will spend Saturday night in immigration custody before seeking a court order to prevent his deportation and maintain his chances of winning a record 21st major title at the Australian Open.

The news: Just before 3:30 p.m., Djokovic arrived at the Park Hotel, the same immigration detention facility where he was kept last week (0430 GMT).

  • As Djokovic and Border Force personnel drove into the hotel’s basement garage, which is also being used to house 33 asylum seekers and tourists in COVID-19 quarantine, about a dozen refugee activists chanted.
  • It will be Djokovic’s second imprisonment, as he spent his first four nights in Australia in a hotel before being released by a judge on Monday.

What they’re saying: According to court documents revealed during an initial hearing in the Federal Court on Saturday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke decided to cancel the Serbian superstar’s visa because his presence in Australia could provoke opposition to COVID-19 immunisation.

  • “Although I… believe that Mr Djokovic poses a negligible individual risk of transmitting COVID-19 to other persons,” Hawke wrote to Djokovic and his legal team, “I nonetheless feel that his presence may be a concern to the health of the Australian population.”
  • Djokovic’s declaration goes into further depth than Hawke’s Friday statement, which stated that his decision was based on “health and good order considerations.”
  • Djokovic’s attorneys claimed on Friday that deporting him would just fuel anti-vaccine sentiment and would be just as dangerous to public health as allowing him to stay and avoiding Australia’s mandatory vaccination obligation for all visitors.

What’s next: Djokovic’s appeal will be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday by Justice David O’Callaghan, with the question of whether it will be heard by a single judge or a full court still to be decided.

  • The 34-year-old had been ordered by a court order on Friday night to surrender to immigration officials for an interview on Saturday morning before being escorted to his lawyers’ officers for the preliminary hearing. He was to be brought into immigration detention after leaving his lawyers.
  • Requests for comment on whether Djokovic attended the interview were not immediately returned by the Border Force and the Immigration Minister’s office.
  • The administration has stated that Djokovic will not be deported until his appeal is heard. Djokovic is hoping to defend his Australian Open championship, which begins on Monday.
  • The drama has overtaken the typical build-up to the Grand Slam event, and players have grown tired of it.
  • As Prime Minister Scott Morrison prepares for Australia election in May, the scandal surrounding the tennis player has become a political touchstone for him.
  • His administration has garnered domestic support for its stern stance on border security during the outbreak, but it has come under fire for how it handled Djokovic’s visa application.
  • Djokovic is aiming for a record-tying 21st Grand Slam trophy, and will face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round of the Open. He might be deported on a flight out of Melbourne instead of hitting Rod Laver Arena on Monday.
  • He can choose to withdraw and leave Australia on his own terms.

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