Australian court validates Novak Djokovic’s expulsion

Game over. The Australian Federal Court on Sunday January 16 rejected the appeal brought by world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic against the cancellation of his visa and his expulsion from the country.

“The Court orders that the action be dismissed at the plaintiff’s expense”, says the decision approved unanimously by the three judges, on the eve of the start of the Australian Open during which the Serb intended to run for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

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Novak Djokovic will therefore not play the Australian Open. The world number 1 in tennis, “extremely disappointed”, said in a statement on Sunday that he respected the verdict and was preparing to leave the country.

“I am extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision to dismiss my appeal of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa” writes the player.

“I respect the Court’s decision and will cooperate with the relevant authorities regarding my departure from the country.. »

“It makes me uncomfortable that so much attention has been focused on me over the last few weeks, and I hope we can now all focus on the game and the tournament that I love.”, writes the player again. “I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and spectators good luck for this tournament. »

Allowed to leave the detention center where he was placed on Saturday, Djokovic had followed the hearing online, which lasted four hours, from the offices of his lawyers in Melbourne.

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The decision of the Court, announced by its president James Allsop, is in theory impossible to contest by the player, forced to leave Australia immediately with possible long-term repercussions for his career. He could indeed be refused a visa in Australia for the next three years.

The presence of Djokovic “likely to represent a health risk”

In his pleadings filed in court on Saturday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke argued that Djokovic’s presence in the country was “likely to represent a health risk”.

According to him, she encouraged “anti-vaccination sentiment” and could deter Australians from getting their booster shots, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country. The presence in Australia of the champion could even “lead to an upsurge in civil unrest”, added the minister.

Although he had called the risk of Djokovic himself infecting Australians “negligible”, the Minister had estimated that his “contempt” Passing health rules against Covid was a bad example.

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10 things to know about Novak Djokovic, tennis champion… and the unvaccinated

“Illogical”, “unreasonable”

Sunday before the Court, the lawyers of “Joko” described their client’s detention and possible deportation as“illogical”, “irrational” and “unreasonable”.

The government “don’t know what Mr. Djokovic’s opinions are at the moment”, pleaded lawyer Nick Wood, saying that his client has never publicly supported the anti-vaccination movement.

Government lawyer Stephen Lloyd responded that the champion’s failure to be vaccinated nearly two years into the pandemic and his repeated disregard of health rules, including failing to isolate when he knew he was infected, constituted sufficient proof of his position.

Novak Djokovic had been blocked on his arrival in Australia on January 5 and placed in administrative detention for the first time.

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The player, who reportedly contracted Covid-19 in December, had hoped for an exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated, but authorities did not accept this explanation.

A fleeting victory

The Australian government suffered a humiliating setback on January 10 when a judge blocked Djokovic’s deportation, reinstated his visa and ordered his immediate release.

But the Minister of Immigration had counterattacked on Friday and canceled his visa for the second time on Friday under his discretionary powers, citing “sanitary and public order reasons”.

Sunday after the hearing, Djokovic was taken back to the Park Hotel, the austere detention center for illegal immigrants now world famous, which he should now only leave to board the plane that will take him home.

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Several errors (or lies)

In a statement released on Wednesday, the tennis player admitted to having filled out his declaration of entry into Australia incorrectly. The 86-time ATP title player, seen in Serbia and Spain in the two weeks before his arrival, contrary to what he declared in the immigration form upon arrival, pleaded “human error”.

Is it also an “error” when the player, a priori positive for Covid therefore, welcomed children to his academy, the Novak Center, in Belgrade? Several photos from the event show Novak Djokovic without a mask. The next day, still in Belgrade, the world number 1 received reporters from “L’Équipe” for a long interview, masked, and for a photo shoot… without a mask. He then said nothing about his Covid positivity.

Even more annoying, the world number 1 could, according to the German daily “Der Spiegel”, have backdated his positive test for Covid. Journalists have indeed observed two inconsistencies in this test: the “timestamp” – computer value representing the number of seconds that have elapsed since January 1, 1970 – which is automatically found on the URL of the Djokovic test certificate would correspond to the date of December 26, at 2:21 p.m., ten days after that announced by the player’s lawyers. Another confusing element: the ID of the positive test of December 16 (7371999) is higher than that of the negative test result of December 22 (7320919), which is not at all logical since the order is supposed to be ascending … “Der Spiegel” estimates that the difference between the two numbers (nearly 50,000) roughly corresponds to the number of tests carried out in Serbia between December 22 and 26. If the information was confirmed, Novak Djokovic could be deprived of circuit for three years, which would mean the end of career for the 34-year-old Serbian player.

Djokovic defeats his guilt, an investigation sows doubt around the date of his positive test

Close match ahead with his sponsors

Within reach of the men’s record for Grand Slam titles and reconciled with the public at the last US Open, Novak Djokovic was undoubtedly better positioned than ever to seduce sponsors, before his Australian saga once again clouded his image.

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The world number 1 received some 30 million dollars (26.3 M EUR) from its partners in 2021, according to Forbes magazine. A substantial envelope, but much less than other players like Roger Federer (90 million), Serena Williams (40 million) and Naomi Osaka (55 million).

Arrived later on the circuit than his great rivals Federer and Nadal, it must be said that “Nole” regularly annoys spectators and players, with his broken rackets, his extended toilet breaks or his calls to the doctor in the middle of a match. “There is this feeling that maybe he is not as nice as Federer or Nadal”, summarizes Patrick Rishe, professor of sports economics at Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri).

The Australian authorities’ rejection of a vaccine exemption request submitted by the unvaccinated Serb, as well as the player’s admission of non-compliance with isolation after testing positive in December, “feed this reputation”, believes Patrick Rishe.

“His image will be damaged by this situation, because most of the players who play this tournament are vaccinated and have respected the rules”, abounds Josh Schwartz, head of athlete marketing at the American agency PIVOT.

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The Austrian bank Raiffeisen was therefore cautious, indicating that“As a sponsor, we are closely monitoring the current situation”. There is also a risk that a possible rupture will turn against the brand that would take the initiative, because a significant proportion of public opinion is opposed to compulsory vaccination.

“As consumers, we have very short memories”, argues Joe Favorito, a sports marketing specialist who teaches at Columbia University.

“We love heroes and villains and we love seeing people overcome challenges. If Novak Djokovic comes back, anywhere, it will go beyond all that, because he didn’t break any laws. This is just his personal opinion. »

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