As it happened: Novak Djokovic Federal Court appeal set for Sunday after Immigration Minister cancels tennis star’s visa

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Key posts

  • Early win for Djokovic’s lawyers: Case to be heard by full court, not a single judge
  • Djokovic returns to detention at Park Hotel
  • Hawke argues Djokovic’s vaccination stance ‘may influence others’
  • ‘Much more important than any player’: Nadal’s strong Djokovic reaction
  • Everything you need to know about Djokovic’s 11th-hour fight: Explainer
  • Hawke claims Djokovic’s ‘anti-vaccine’ presence may trigger ‘civil unrest’
  • ‘Their country, their rules’: World reacts to Djokovic saga
  • Osaka: ‘It’s kind of sad’
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Djokovic returns to detention at Park Hotel

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has been spotted being driven into the Park Hotel, the Carlton detention centre where he was held following the first cancellation of his visa.

The tennis star appeared calm and composed, wearing a green tracksuit pants and jumper with a white face mask, as he was driven in by a white sedan.

A small group of pro-refugee protesters was camped outside of the hotel gates with banners calling for the release of asylum seekers being held at the facility.

Novak Djokovic is driven back to detention at The Park Hotel in Carlton.Credit:Nine News

Earlier this afternoon, a van and a four-wheel-drive left the offices of the tennis star’s lawyers in the CBD under police watch.

A man wearing a cap and green jumper believed to be a decoy could be seen in the backseat of the four-wheel-drive.

Djokovic’s appeal is set to be heard in Federal Court at 9.30am (AEDT) tomorrow morning.

See you in the morning for Djokovic’s big day in court

That’s it from us today.

Broede Carmody will be back in the morning for live and comprehensive coverage of Novak Djokovic’s Federal Court hearing where he’ll seek to challenge the cancellation of his visa for a second time at 9.30am (AEDT).

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke will argue that Djokovic’s continued presence in Australia “may influence others” to ignore isolation requirements and potentially trigger “civil unrest” from anti-vaccine campaigners.

Djokovic’s lawyers meanwhile claimed on Saturday there was “vocal support in Australia and abroad” for Djokovic to remain in the country and challenge for his 10th Australian Open title.

Novak Djokovic will fight to remain in the country on Sunday.Credit:Nine

Here are the key points ahead of Sunday’s hearing:

  • Djokovic was transported from his lawyer’s offices on Saturday afternoon to the Park Hotel in Carlton, where he was first detained following the first visa cancellation last week;
  • Sunday’s matter will be heard by the full court of the Federal Court of three justices, Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan;
  • Protesters camped outside the hotel and at Rod Laver Arena, chanting ‘free Novak’, while former Liberal MP Craig Kelly declared him a “political prisoner”;
  • Court documents were made public outlining in detail the arguments made by the Hawke and Djokovic parties;
  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic claimed Djokovic had been “mistreated and harassed” by the Australian government;
  • Tennis players gave interviews on Saturday, many claiming that the Djokovic controversy had taken the spotlight away from the upcoming grand slam. Rafael Nadal spoke strongly, warning the Australian Open was “much more important than any player”, while Naomi Osaka lamented that it was “kind of sad” that this saga may affect Djokovic’s legacy.

Finally before you go, we recommend reading this explainer before Djokovic’s day in court. It breaks down everything you need to know.

We’ll see in the morning. Good evening.

Djokovic organised COVID-19 vaccination pop-up site in Belgrade: Serbian media

Novak Djokovic organised a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up site for anyone who wished to receive it during two Serbia Open tennis tournaments in Belgrade in 2021, Serbian media are reporting.

In an interview with Radio-Television of Serbia, Serbian lawyer Blazo Nedic of ADR Center Global, said that these facts were in direct opposition to Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s view that Djokovic’s continuing stay in Australia would stoke anti-vaxxer sentiment.

“They say he’s the leader of the anti-vaxxer movement. But he is the one who enabled others to get vaccinated if they wished to do so, when the vaccines were not widely available. On the other hand, he obviously doesn’t want to be vaccinated. Those are two separate things and I would lead that as a fact before court.

“Now the minister is basing his decision on public interest and says that Novak Djokovic’s presence would lead to unrest and particularly motivate anti-vaxxers. This fact [about Djokovic organising vaccination] goes to the exact opposite,” Mr Nedic told RTS.

‘This is Orwellian’: Djokovic defence emerges ahead of court hearing

Novak Djokovic’s beliefs about COVID-19 vaccination will go on trial in the Federal Court on Sunday after his legal team challenged the federal government to prove his presence in Australia may disrupt civil order and undermine its pandemic response.

Djokovic was returned into the custody of Border Force guards on Saturday, two days before the start of the Australian Open, after a brief Federal Court hearing.

Novak Djokovic is driven back to detention at The Park Hotel in Carlton.Credit:Nine News

Late on Saturday afternoon the men’s world number one player was driven into Melbourne’s Park Hotel, the Carlton detention centre where he was held following the first cancellation of his visa.

The tennis star appeared calm and composed, wearing a green tracksuit pants and jumper with a white face mask, as he was driven in by a white sedan.

In court documents submitted after the hearing, lawyers for the Serbian tennis star said it was not open to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, on the material before him, to declare their client held well-known anti-vax views.

Although Djokovic has refused to take the jab, his lawyers told the court his strongest public statement against vaccination dated back almost two years, to April 2020, before the first COVID-19 vaccines were available.

“There was no evidence before the respondent that Mr Djokovic had made any comments about his vaccination status or expressed any ‘views’ regarding vaccination at any time during which he has been in Australia … or at any other time in any other location (post April 2020)” his lawyers submitted.

Mr Hawke’s decision to pursue deportation proceedings against the world’s best tennis player on grounds that his global profile, public opposition to vaccination and disregard for following COVID-19 restrictions may fuel the anti-vax movement in Australia has elevated the Djokovic saga from a dispute about travel papers into something well beyond its bureaucratic origins.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns SC, a barrister experienced in migration cases, said Djokovic was now feeling the full force of migration laws designed to remove suspected terrorists from Australia, not tennis players.

“One of the most dangerous aspects of the Djokovic matter is the preparedness of the federal government to deem someone to be a risk to public order simply on the basis of what it perceives that person’s views might be,” Mr Barns said.

“This is Orwellian and it is deeply troubling in a society supposedly committed to freedom of speech and freedom of thought.”

Read Chip and Scott’s full story here.

‘Australian Open more important than any player’: Stars split on Djokovic visa saga

Rafael Nadal and a host of leading players have lamented how the ongoing visa saga of Novak Djokovic has completely overshadowed the start of the Australian Open, with the Spanish great saying not one player in the history of tennis is above the sport itself.

But there is a divide among some players, with even rivals including German Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios in agreement that the situation with Djokovic is alarming.

Rafael Nadal in Melbourne. Credit:Hamish Blair, AP

Zverev, a leading contender for the Australian Open title, believes the nine-time champion in Melbourne is the victim of his high profile and expressed concern about the process that has led to the champion being detained again.

“I think Novak is a very big name, a global superstar,” Zverev said.

“I think that he is someone that maybe people think they can make a big deal out of it just because it’s Novak.

“I don’t know enough of the situation, but I do think if it would not be Novak Djokovic, world No. 1, with 20 grand slams, all that, then it would not be as big of a drama. That I do believe.”

Kyrgios said the matter was embarrassing for Australia.

“I thought the vaccination (for Djokovic) was the issue, then him having the (medical) exemption from two independent sort of health departments,” Kyrgios told The Age and SMH.

“Then he went to court and the judge was basically saying ‘what more does this guy need to do to be here’.

Read the full story here.

Early win for Djokovic’s lawyers: Case to be heard by full court, not a single judge

Novak Djokovic’s case will be heard by a full court at the Federal Court tomorrow morning instead of by a single judge.

The Federal Court announced this afternoon the matter would be heard by Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan, who presided over this morning’s proceedings.

The tennis star’s counsel spoke in support of a full bench earlier today, but the move was opposed by the government’s lawyers as it would remove both parties’ right to appeal the ruling.

The hearing will begin at 9.30am (Australian Eastern Daylight Time) and be live-streamed on YouTube.

Former Australian Open director says Djokovic the victim of a ‘witch hunt’

The former director of the Australian Open believes Novak Djokovic has been made a scapegoat for an anti-vaccination “witch hunt”.

Paul McNamee, in an opinion piece for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, argues the Open has been “engulfed and paralysed” by the fiasco that’s left the men’s world number one on the brink of deportation.

Writes McNamee:

For me, perhaps sending home one of the best athletes in the world boils down to the simple reason that it is now known he is not vaccinated, and being such a public figure, it made him an easy target. Otherwise, there never would have been what seems to be a witch hunt.

People are saying he is getting special treatment because he is Novak Djokovic, when in fact it’s the opposite, as now it’s only because he is a high-profile and “influential” person that he is facing deportation.

Read McNamee’s full opinion piece here.

Unvaccinated coach claims he was let in. Then Novak arrived and authorities came knocking

Filip Serdarusic, Croatian tennis coach and brother of tennis player Nino Serdarusic, told Serbian site Sport Klub he only had to leave Australia after being granted a medical exemption due to Novak Djokovic’s situation.

He said Australian authorities were playing politics with Djokovic at the expense of others.

Serdarusic, who arrived in Australia on the same medical exemption as the world No.1, told Sport Klub journalist Sasa Ozmo that on the day Djokovic arrived, Australian immigration authorities called him at 10pm and asked him to attend an interview the following day.

“There was an opportunity to enter with an exemption. I am not vaccinated and I had coronavirus in October,” he said.

He added his agent had sent confirmation of this to Tennis Australia, which passed it onto authorities. Serdarusic said he was then given approval to enter Australia around December 10 and arrived with his brother on a flight chartered by Tennis Australia.

Serdarusic said that a Border Force official had told him he may face 14-day quarantine after finding out he was unvaccinated and had an exemption. Serdarusic told her he wouldn’t have come to Australia had he known he’d face quarantine.

“Then she called her boss, he looked at the papers, photographed them and told me I could enter the country freely,” Serdarusic told Sport Klub.

Nino and Filip Serdarusic were in Melbourne for three days and then travelled to Traralgon for a tennis tournament when Djokovic arrived at Melbourne Airport.

Serdarusic said he then got a phone call from immigration authorities at 10pm and was told to attend an interview the next day. TA sent him a car an hour before his brother’s quarterfinals match as he had to arrive at Immigration by 5pm.

Serdarusic decided he would not challenge a potential visa cancellation decision.

“They would have rejected it 99 per cent as they had decided it was no longer valid you’d had COVID. I decided to pack up as I am not as great as Novak to fight. If they’d stopped him, they had to stop us, too.”

Serdarusic said Djokovic had done everything by the rules.

“People have all sorts of unpleasant comments. I’ll say only this: When we applied for a visa, we had to fulfil conditions. Neither Novak nor I invented the exemption. We followed their rules and were approved entry. They can strengthen their political cause on him, but they can’t on us ‘little ones’, that’s why this is happening,” Serdarusic said.

“He [Djokovic] is ideal for that before the election, that’s how it seems. If they had let in the Czech [player Renata Voracova, who also left Australia] and me, why not him? I think Tennis Australia had hoped he’d enter like we had done, but everyone knows him. If it hadn’t been for Novak, this wouldn’t have happened to us.”

US Open champ wants to talk about Murray, not Djokovic

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu feels that the Novak Djokovic visa saga has served as a distraction from what has been happening on the court in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

I feel it has taken away a little bit from the great tennis that’s been happening over this summer in Australia.

For example, Andy Murray, he’s in the final tonight (in Sydney), which I think is pretty incredible. To see him come back and win and play so well, definitely rooting for him later on.

I feel like in that way it has been (a distraction).

Emma Raducanu says too much focus has been put on Novak Djokovic.Credit:Getty Images

Murray, whose last four years have been dogged by injury, qualified for his first final since October 2019.

His best result at a grand slam since 2017 was a third-round exit at Wimbledon last year, having only participated in six of a possible 15 majors in the last four years.

Anti-vaccine protesters chant ‘free Novak’ outside Rod Laver Arena

About 200 anti-vaccine protesters have gathered outside Rod Laver Arena this afternoon, chanting “free Novak”, “free Novak Djokovic”, “let him play” and slogans against vaccine mandates and passports.

The protest group have appeared weekly on the streets of Melbourne throughout the pandemic, and today’s rally – planned before the Djokovic saga started – was to be focused on opposing vaccinating children for COVID-19.

This morning organisers decided to include a march to Rod Laver in their itinerary, which included chanting “tell the truth” outside major television networks and speeches in Flagstaff gardens.

Anti-vaccine protesters chant ‘free Novak’ outside Rod Laver Arena.Credit:Facebook

Organisers posted online this morning they needed to seize the moment.

“With the high profile nature of Novak Djokovic’s visa being cancelled again as a result of his ‘anti-vaccine’ stance, we need to show the Immigration Minister and the government that THEY are the ones who have ‘sparked anti-vaccine sentiment’ with their stance on mandates and segregation, and regardless of whether he plays or not, we will be making noise that the world will not be able to ignore,” they posted on Telegram.

Today’s turnout is far smaller than rallies in recent months, which have seen up to 20,000 in attendance.

Protesters camp outside hotel as Djokovic returns

There is a strong media presence outside of Carlton’s Park Hotel where Novak Djokovic was taken by officers about 3.20pm (AEDT).

About a dozen refugee advocates have camped outside the hotel’s gates, carrying signs in favour of releasing the approximately 30 asylum seekers being held at the facility.

Police officers move media away from a van entering the Park Hotel car park on Saturday afternoon.Credit:Getty Images

Some demonstrators, including a young child, have congregated at Lincoln Square, a small park across from the hotel, where news crews are preparing to go live with the latest developments on the tennis star’s saga.

They are holding signs asking passing cars to “honk for refugees” and and calling for an end to detention.

Refugee advocates outside Park Hotel in Melbourne after Novak Djokovic was driven into the underground car park of the Carlton building by officers on Saturday afternoon.Credit:Marta Pascual Juanola

The words “the torture chamber” and “blood on your hands” can be see written on the hotel’s outside walls.

No Djokovic fans are currently present at the hotel, which became the site of daily protests in the first days of the Serbian pro’s detention last week.

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