Australian Open: Djokovic fate hinges on Sunday full-court hearing

By Sports Desk January 15, 2022

Novak Djokovic was back in detention on Saturday night as he awaited decision day in his battle to play at the Australian Open.

The end of the saga should come on Sunday when Djokovic's lawyers attempt to prevent the Serbian being deported.

A procedural hearing, where the matter was formally transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, saw an 09:30 AEDT (Saturday 22:30 GMT) start to the case agreed upon.

Djokovic's lawyers secured an early procedural victory when it was decided the case should be heard by a full court, consisting of Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan.

That reduces the avenues for any possible appeal against the court's decision. Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of immigration minister Alex Hawke, had indicated his preference for a single judge.

A central tenet of the case is set to be Hawke's assertion that Djokovic should be removed from the country "on health and good order grounds" and "in the public interest".

In submissions to the court issued by Djokovic's lawyers, Hawke is shown to say that he accepted the world number one recently tested positive for COVID-19.

However, Hawke adds that: "I am concerned that his presence in Australia, given his well-known stance on vaccination, creates a risk of strengthening the anti-vaccination sentiment of a minority of the Australian community."

The nine-time Australian Open champion's visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite Djokovic winning his initial case on Monday.

His lawyers will dispute the minister's claims and push for Djokovic to be freed from detention to be able to defend his title at Melbourne Park.

In their application to the court, Djokovic's legal team state: "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 (on this occasion or previous occasions) or at any other time in any other location (post April 2020)."

For Djokovic, lawyer Nick Wood said on Friday that his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

The Australian Open starts on Monday, when Djokovic hopes to begin his journey to what could be a 10th Melbourne slam and a record-breaking 21st major title.

Djokovic is scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

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