Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

Australian Open draw is delayed 'until further notice', no explanation

Huge clue to Novak Djokovic’s fate as Australian Open makes telling decision during afternoon of chaos where draw was bizarrely postponed and Scott Morrison refused to weigh in

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirms no decision has been made on Djokovic
  • Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is deciding whether to cancel Serbian’s visa 
  • Mr Morrison said it was a matter for Mr Hawke’s department on Thursday 
  • Australian Open officials then announced Djokovic as the number one seed 
  • Competition’s draw was delayed until after Mr Morrison’s press conference
  • Novak Djokovic was pictured looking tense at tennis practice on Thursday
  • The world no. 1 is awaiting the decision over whether or not he will be deported 
  • Spain and Serbia are now investigating the tennis playing amid the visa scandal

Novak Djokovic has been named the number one seed for next week’s Australian Open despite the fact Prime Minister Scott Morrison has tonight made clear he could still be deported.   

The first real event of the Open – the draw – was abruptly postponed just as it was meant to start at 3pm on Thursday afternoon. 

That sparked rampant speculation Mr Morrison was about to announce Djokovic’s visa was being cancelled at a media conference following a national cabinet meeting.

But minutes later, Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra that investigations into Djokovic’s visit to Australia were still ongoing. 

‘These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by (Immigration) Minister Alex Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time,’ Mr Morrison said. 

He referred reporters to a statement Mr Hawke made earlier in the week where the minister said he was sifting through a mountain of evidence from Djokovic’s lawyers, who are desperately fighting for him to stay in the country for the grand slam. 

After the PM’s comments, the Open announced that Djokovic will face Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the tournament – barring any late interjection from the federal government. 

Prime Mininster Scott Morrison said the federal government are yet to make a decision on deporting tennis champion Novak Djokovic 

The world no. 1 appeared stress as his deportation decision looms,  stretching his neck as he walked across the court during practice on Thursday

In a statement, Mr Hawke’s office said they were looking over further information provided by Djokovic’s legal team to reinforce his eligiblity for his current visa.

‘Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa,’ they said.

‘Naturally, this will affect the time frame for a decision.’   

Mr Morrison was asked by a reporter on Thursday afternoon hypothetically if someone were to attempt to enter Australia unvaccinated whether they would be determined as a health risk to the public.  

‘All I will simply say is the reason we have had since 15 December where fully vaccinated eligible visa holders could travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption and enter those states allowing them to enter quarantine free, the individual has to show they are double vaccinated or must provide acceptable proof that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons,’ he replied.

‘That’s the policy which hasn’t changed. That is the policy and we would expect authorities to be implementing the policy of the government when it comes to those matters.   

‘That relates to people who are coming to Australia. These are non-citizens, non-residents. 

‘If you’re not a citizen or resident, the health rules we have in place to protect our borders and our border protection policies have been central to the government’s achievements when it comes and Australia’s achievements generally inhabit one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rate in the country.’

Meanwhile, the Australian Open draw was mysteriously delayed without explanation this afternoon.

The draw was set to be held at Melbourne Park at 3pm on Thursday afternoon, but as it was due to kick off, officials announced the selection event had been cancelled. No reason was given for the move. 

Following Mr Morrison’s press conference, Australian Open officials released the draw for the competition, naming the nine-time winner the number one seed. 

The men’s tennis champion wiped off sweat with a white towel as he sat on the side of the court 

The Serbian tennis star is now under investigation by three countries amid his Australian visa scandal

In winning his court case earlier this week, Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly said Djokovic was given insufficient time to speak to Tennis Australia officials and for lawyers to respond on being told of the intent to cancel his visa.

A decision is expected by Mr Hawke on Thursday after his office said additional information provided by Djokovic’s legal team had created further delays.

It’s unclear whether there are other legal avenues that Djokovic can pursue if he fails in his bid to remain in the country.

The nine-time titleholder used a recent Covid infection to gain a medical exemption, but was denied entry by Australian Border Force officials and sent to a detention hotel. 

Djokovic then admitted in a statement on Wednesday he had provided false information on his travel declaration and blamed his agent for the error.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic pictured at a booth of the Australian Border Force at the airport in Melbourne on January 5

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is ruminating over whether the tennis player should be permitted to stay or deported 

He said he didn’t attend any public events after testing positive but revealed he had conducted a media interview in Serbia while knowingly infected, which he described as an ‘error of judgement’.

Djokovic has tried to keep it business as usual in his build-up to the Open, where he will bid for a record 21st grand slam title.  

The elite tennis player is also under investigation by Spain and Serbia over the visa scandal amid concerns of possible Covid and travel breaches. 

The Spanish government is now reportedly looking into whether the Serbian tennis star entered the country illegally, prior to his flight to Melbourne.  

Djokovic travelled from Serbia to Marbella, Spain on December 31 and was believed to still be training in the Spanish city as of January 4. 

He flew to Australia the following day.  

Now Spanish police and immigrations authorities are investigating Djokovic as it’s understood he did not request special permission from the Spanish Embassy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enter the country unvaccinated. 

As of last September, visiting Serbians must show proof of vaccination or an exemption to enter Spanish territory – but authorities claim the world No.1 didn’t provide either of these.

Djokovic is already facing deportation in Australia for travelling to the country while unvaccinated, and Serbian authorities are probing the athlete after he admitted failing to isolate after catching Covid.  

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Tuesday that he didn’t have any record of Djokovic travelling to Spain before heading to Australia. 

‘I have no record of this presence of Djokovic,’ he said.

The Australian government is expected to make an announcement on Thursday if Djokovic will be deported

‘We have not been contacted by the Australian government to request such documentation.’

However, Djokovic may be off the hook if he’s considered a resident of Spain, having bought a house in Marbella in 2020. 

The athlete has already apologised for marking on his Australian visa application that he had not travelled to any other countries in the 14 days before arriving in Melbourne. 

‘This was submitted by my support team on my behalf – as I told immigration officials on my arrival – and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,’ Djokovic said in a statement on Wednesday.

Key moments in Novak Djokovic’s Aussie Open bid 

 By Karen Sweeney in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press

Tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic is still focused on defending his Australian Open title and winning a record-breaking 21st men’s grand slam tournament but the road to Melbourne has been bumpy and the path is not yet clear.

October/November – Djokovic applies for a temporary visa to enter Australia and compete in the 2022 Australian Open.

November 18 – Granted a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa.

December 14 – Attends a basketball match in Belgrade, Serbia, where attendees contract COVID-19.

December 16 – Djokovic is ‘tested and diagnosed’ with COVID-19. Documents show he was tested at 1.05pm and the result was returned at 8.19pm.

December 17 – Attends events in Belgrade, including a trophy presentation for junior tennis players. Pictured not wearing a mask and posing side-by-side indoors with a large group of children.

December 18 – Djokovic says he learned of the positive test and cancelled several scheduled events. Goes ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French newspaper L’Equipe, saying he felt ‘obliged’ because ‘I didn’t want to let the journalist down’.

December 22 – Returns a negative PCR test.

December 25 – Filmed by a fan playing tennis on a street in Belgrade. He is also photographed alongside Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic.

December 30 – Tennis Australia notify Djokovic he has been granted a temporary medical exemption, allowing him to play in the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The exemption was granted on the basis of a previous infection, based on the opinion of one panel of medical experts and reviewed by another.

December 31 – Filmed training at a tennis academy in Sotogrande, Spain. The academy post photos on its Instagram of him posing for pictures with fans a day later.

January 1 – Authorises his agent to complete his Australian Travel Declaration. The document says Djokovic had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his intended arrival in Australia. Later admits the form contained an error in not acknowledging his travel between Serbia and Spain. Djokovic said his agent was notified by the Department of Home Affairs that the declaration had been assessed and he met the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival.

January 2 – Granted a border travel permit by the Victorian government.

January 4 – Announces on Instagram he is ‘heading Down Under with an exemption’. The post was made shortly before he departed for Melbourne, via Dubai. News of his impending arrival sparks controversy in Australia.

January 5 – Arrives in Melbourne at 11.30pm.

January 6 – Australian Border Force officials detain Djokovic. After a series of early morning interviews his visa is cancelled at 7.29am. His lawyers are granted a temporary injunction by the Federal Circuit Court. Djokovic is taken to the Park Hotel, which is being used as an immigration detention centre.

January 7 – Spends Orthodox Christmas in his hotel room.

January 10 – After a lengthy hearing, a judge quashes the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa after lawyers concede the decision was unreasonable in the circumstances. Judge Anthony Kelly rules Djokovic be paid his costs and freed from immigration detention. Government lawyers note Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has a personal power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

January 11 – Djokovic posts a photo of himself training at Rod Laver Arena. ‘Despite all that has happened in the past week, I want to stay and to try to compete at the Australian Open,’ he says. Questions are raised over his Australian Travel Declaration after documents released by the court revealed he answered ‘no’ to the question about travel in the 14 days before his arrival.

January 12 – Posts a statement on Instagram to correct ‘continuing misinformation’. He admits knowingly going through with the L’Equipe interview while positive for COVID-19. He also apologises for the ‘administrative mistake’ on the travel declaration. Mr Hawke’s office say the minister is still considering whether to exercise his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

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