Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked and faces deportation again over his COVID-19 vaccination status days before the start of the Australian Open despite the government ruling in his favor earlier in the week.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used ministerial discretion on the grounds of public interest to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
Djokovic’s team was expected to appeal at the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which it did successfully earlier in the week on procedural grounds when his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne Airport. Hawke said he made his judgment "carefully."
"Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," Hawke said in a statement.
"The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison added: "They rightly expect the result of those sacrifices (Australians have made) to be protected. The pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.
"Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic."
Djokovic is unvaccinated against the coronavirus. All Australian Open participants and incoming travelers into the country need to be vaccinated unless they receive a medical exemption.
A medical exemption was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australian, allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. However, the Australian Border Force rejected the medical exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on Jan. 5.
The 20-time major champion was holed up in a Melbourne immigration hotel until a judge reversed the decision. He was then picked as the No. 1 seed for the tournament and was able to practice at Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Open.
The saga has overshadowed the tournament.
"It’s not a good situation for anyone. Just want it obviously to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now — not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak," British tennis star Andy Murray said.
Should Djokovic be forced to pull out of the event before the order of play is announced for Day 1, Grand Slam rules state No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia would move into his spot to face Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
If Djokovic withdraws after the schedule is released, he will be replaced by a "lucky loser." The so-called "lucky loser" is a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but gets into the main draw because of another player’s dropout.
The Australian Open begins Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.