Novak Djokovic was preparing to leave Australia on Sunday after the court rejected the appeal he had brought against his expulsion, ordered by the government, which considered that the world No.1 in tennis, no -vaccinated against Covid-19, represented a “health risk”.
At the end of an interim hearing, the three judges of the Federal Court of Australia dismissed the 34-year-old Serbian, burying his hopes of winning, at the Australian Open which begins on Monday, a 21st Grand Slam title, a record.
“I am extremely disappointed”, reacted Djokovic in a press release. “I respect the Court's decision and will cooperate with the relevant authorities regarding my departure from the country,” he added.
“I will now take time to rest and recover,” said the player, whose career could suffer heavily from this setback.
Authorized to leave the detention center where he was placed on Saturday , Djokovic had followed the hearing online, which lasted four hours, from the offices of his lawyers in Melbourne.
In his submissions filed in court on Saturday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke argued that Djokovic's presence in the country was “likely to pose a health risk”.
According to him, it encouraged ” anti-vaccination sentiment” and could dissuade Australians from getting their booster shots, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country.
– “Civil unrest” – < /h2>
The presence in Australia of the champion could even “lead to an upsurge in civil unrest”, added the minister.
Even if he had qualified the risk that Djokovic himself infects Australians as “negligible”, the minister had considered that his past “contempt” of the health rules against Covid constituted a bad example.
Sunday before the Court, the lawyers of “Djoko” had described the detention of their client and his possible expulsion as “illogical”, “irrational” and “unreasonable”. Without convincing the three judges of the Federal Court who rejected the appeal unanimously, without the possibility of appeal.
Novak Djokovic had been blocked on his arrival in Australia on January 5 and placed in administrative detention for the first time.
The player, who contracted Covid-19 in December, hoped to benefit from an exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated, but the authorities had not accepted this explanation.
The Australian government suffered a humiliating setback on January 10 when a judge blocked Djokovic's deportation, reinstated his visa and ordered his immediate release.
But the immigration minister struck back on Friday and canceled his visa for the second time on Friday under his discretionary powers, citing “sanitary and public order reasons”.
Sunday after the hearing, Djokovic was escorted back to the Park Hotel, the austere detention center for illegal immigrants now world famous, which he should no longer leave except to board the plane that will take him home.
In a statement posted on his social media on Wednesday, the tennis player admitted to having incorrectly completed his declaration for entering Australia.
– “Incompetence” –
The player to 86 ATP titles, seen in Serbia and Spain in the two weeks before his arrival, contrary to what he declared in the immigration form upon his arrival, pleaded “human error”.
This action-packed soap opera is set in a country whose people have endured some of the toughest anti-Covid restrictions in the world for nearly two years, and where elections are scheduled for May.
Hence a charged political context. Pressure had intensified in recent days around Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused of “incompetence” by the Labor opposition.
The Australian government welcomed its legal victory on Sunday.  ;
“Australia's strong border protection policy has kept us safe during the pandemic,” Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.
“The Australians have made great sacrifices to get here and the Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting this position,” he added.
The Djokovic case is also being followed assiduously in Serbia where “Nole” is considered a national hero. On Friday, President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia of “mistreating” him.