The tennis icon has been deported because he did not take a Covid vaccine – and his legal woes might not be over yet
Novak Djokovic may have played his final match at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena amid a potential visa nightmare which could banish the Australian Open's most successful star of the modern era from Australia for the next three years.
When can Djokovic return to Australia?
The legal defeat, which is arguably the most high-profile court loss Djokovic has experienced in his career, brings closure to a visa stand-off which has threatened to consume the entire Australian Open.
But as he leaves the country in the hours after it was confirmed by a panel of judges that yes, there was a sound legal basis to rescind his right to be in the county, Djokovic will be no doubt be left wondering exactly when it is he might be able to return. Will Djokovic be allowed to play at the Australian Open again?
The full ruling from the Federal Court of Australia brings with it another side-effect as part of the country's Migration Act: a three-year period in which the person in question is unable to be granted a visa.
That would mean that Djokovic would effectively be banned from competing at the Australian Open in 2023 and 2024, as well as any other tournaments within Australian borders.
There is, however, some wiggle room for the top player in the world's ambitions of winning what would be a tenth Australian Open crown.
The ban can be waived provided that it can be demonstrated that admitting the the person in question to the country is in Australia's best interests – something which could potentially lead to another immigration stand-off between both parties in a year's time.
How will the Australian government decide on Djokovic's visa?
That would be dependent on various factors, such as Australia's future immigration policies as it relates to Covid-19 and vaccination requirements, as well as Djokovic's own vaccination status.
"Djokovic can apply to the government to ask for the ban to be waived on compelling and compassionate grounds. I imagine if he wants to play in next year’s Australian Open, he may apply," said Abul Rizvi, former deputy secretary of the Australian Immigration Department, to television show 'The Project'. "I suspect whoever is the minister would probably allow that." Will Djokovic be allowed to compete without a Covid vaccination?
Djokovic's own brief statement after the court declaration indicated his
"extreme disappointment" but he said that he would comply fully with its findings.
It does beg the question, though: assuming that there are similar requirements in place for unvaccinated individuals to enter Australia in a year's time, will Djokovic's very participation in the tournament be deemed a compelling enough reason for his entry?
And what does it say about the legitimacy of the Australian Open as a Grand Slam event if the world's best player is essentially permanently barred from it?
One suspects we'll have answers to these questions in time.