World number one Novak Djokovic lost his fight against deportation from Australia on Sunday, with a court rejecting his appeal against the government’s decision to remove him. The ruling puts an end to the 34-year-old’s bid to defend his Australian Open title and win a record 21st Grand Slam. AFP looks at how the drama, which has reverberated around the world, unfolded:
— Djokovic says he is heading to the Australian Open to defend his title after being granted a medical exemption to play.
All participants at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a medical exemption, assessed by an independent panel of experts.
His participation at the opening Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park had been the subject of intense speculation for months.
— Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley says 26 players or their support staff from the 3,000 or so travelling had asked for an exemption, but only a few were successful.
— Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice-president, says Djokovic’s exemption sent an “appalling message” to people trying to stop the spread of Covid-19.
— Djokovic lands at Melbourne airport.
— Australia says it has cancelled Djokovic’s entry visa on his arrival in Melbourne after quizzing him during the early hours.
“I am not vaccinated,” he tells Australian border control, according to a transcript released by the federal court Monday.
The Serbian ace had repeatedly refused to confirm in public if he had been inoculated.
“Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia,” the Australian Border Force says in a statement.
— Djokovic is moved to an immigration detention centre while his lawyers lodge an appeal.
— Czech doubles player Renata Voracova, who also entered on a Covid exemption, ends up in the same detention facility as Djokovic and says the centre “is like a prison” with guards on every floor.
— Djokovic was given a Covid-19 vaccine exemption because he tested positive for the virus on December 16, his lawyers say in a 32-page court filing.
However, it is then claimed he was at an event in Belgrade the following day without a mask.
— His lawyers also claim that he was held at Melbourne airport on his arrival for eight hours, mostly incommunicado.
— Australia’s government in court filings says Djokovic is not vaccinated against Covid-19 and his legal battle to stay in the country should be dismissed.
— Government lawyers reject a separate argument that Djokovic was treated unfairly because he was pressured into letting a border agent take a decision on his visa without giving him extra time to rest and consult his lawyers.
— Djokovic’s appeal hearing opens, but is repeatedly delayed as the court’s online system crashes due to a surge of worldwide interest.
— After several delays and arguments made by Djokovic’s legal team and Canberra’s lawyers, the world number one wins a stunning victory over the Australian government.
The judge orders that he “be released immediately and forthwith from immigration detention” and overturns the cancellation of his visa.
The government concedes that the way it conducted the airport interview was “unreasonable” because the player was not given the chance to reply fully before his visa was torn up.
— A government lawyer says Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may decide to use his “personal power of cancellation” to intervene in the case despite the legal victory.
— Djokovic trains at the Australian Open venue after his release.
— Australian officials investigate whether Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration upon arrival at Melbourne airport.
— Djokovic releases another statement, admitting “errors” in his travel papers and in his behaviour after a claimed coronavirus infection.
He says his team had offered fresh information to the Australian government, which was still pondering whether to cancel his visa again and throw him out of the country.
— Australian PM Scott Morrison says no decision has yet been made on Djokovic’s visa.
— Djokovic is drawn in the Australian Open first round as uncertainty remains over his participation.
— Djokovic trains again at the Australian Open courts as he awaits a decision.
— Australia’s government cancels Djokovic’s visa for a second time.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says he acted on “health and good order grounds on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”.
Morrison says the visa cancellation protected the “sacrifices” of the Australian people.
— Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood requests an injunction against his removal and appeals for him to be allowed to remain out of immigration detention as the case proceeds. The case is referred to the Federal Court.
— Djokovic is again detained as the appeal proceeds. He is allowed to follow court proceedings from an address in Melbourne, believed to be his lawyers’ offices, under guard of two Australian Border Force officers.
— Immigration minister Hawke argues in court filings that Djokovic’s presence in Australia “may foster anti-vaccination sentiment”, justifying his use of broad executive powers to revoke the visa.
— The tennis star finally loses his bid to avoid deportation.
“The orders of the court are that the amended application be dismissed with costs,” Federal Court chief justice James Allsop says announcing the unanimous decision, on the eve of the Australian Open.
— Djokovic is now set to be kept in detention pending a quick flight out of Australia.
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