Austalia has cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa over failure to meet entry rules with officials adding that the World’s top tennis player would be deported.
He intended to participate in the Australian Open which begins on 17 January in Melbourne. Djokovic has previously won the tournament nine times.
Djokovic was held in the city’s airport for several hours before border officials announced he had not met. His lawyers have launched an urgent appeal in court.
BBC reports that the Serbian player has not spoken about his vaccination status, but last year he said he was “opposed to vaccination”.
Tournament organisers said Djokovic’s medical exemption had been granted by two independent medical panels organised by Tennis Australia and Victoria state.
But border officials said he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” for entry after arriving on Wednesday from Dubai. The Australian Border Force (ABF) said in a statement:
Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied Djokovic was being singled out and said no one was above the country’s rules. But he added that Djokovic’s stance on vaccination had drawn attention. Mr Morrison told reporters:
When you get people making public statements – of what they say they have, and what they are going to do, and what their claims are – well they draw significant attention to themselves.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has reported that two other people were now having their medical exemptions reviewed.
The Federal Circuit Court has adjourned Djokovic’s legal challenge until 18:00 local time (07:00 GMT), after two brief administrative hearings.
Djokovic is being held at a hotel in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton which is used for immigration detention.
Outside the hotel, supporters of Djokovic told the BBC they were angry at his treatment.
Djokovic’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, said his son had been held in a room guarded by police at the airport. He said in a statement released to the media:
This is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world.
President Aleksandar Vucic said the star was a victim of “harassment” and said that “the whole of Serbia” supported him.
Mr Morrison denied the visa cancellation was because of “any particular position in relation to Serbia”, describing the nation as “a good friend of Australia”.
Australia is seeing tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world’s strictest restrictions. More than 90% of Australia’s over-16 population is fully vaccinated, but some people still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current measures.