Novak Djokovic spoke out for the first time on Twitter Monday after a federal judge in Australia reinstated his visa, saying he hopes to still be able to participate in the Australian Open later this month despite the possibility that the government could still cancel his visa.
Djokovic posted a picture of himself at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena just hours after Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that he had not been given enough time to speak to his lawyers before the decision was made to cancel his visa on the basis that he did not provide sufficient evidence for a medical exemption.
“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation,” Djokovic said in a tweet. “Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete [at the] Australian Open. I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”
“For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong,” he said in a second tweet.
Djokovic announced last week that he would be participating in the Australian Open after being granted a medical exemption that would allow him to enter the country. News of this prompted a firestorm of backlash after the government of Victoria, where Melbourne Park is located, previously mandated full COVID-19 vaccinations for all players, staff and fans unless there is a genuine medical reason.
He was detained after arriving in Melbourne on Wednesday night and his visa was eventually canceled after the Australian Border Force (ABF) said he “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia.”
Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action during the Davis Cup Finals 2021, Semifinal 1, tennis match played between Croatia and Serbia at Madrid Arena pavilion on Dec. 03, 2021, in Madrid, Spain. (Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A transcript detailing Djokvic’s interviews with the ABF was released by the court late Monday. According to The Age, Djokovic informed officials that he had been granted a medical exemption after testing positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 16 – his second time this year.
He explained that his visa was granted on the basis of his medical exemption given to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels, including one by the Victorian state government, and that he had complied fully with the information requested of him prior to his arrival in Australia.
According to the transcript, Djokovic was informed at around 4 a.m. that his visa was going to be canceled but he explained that he could not provide further evidence without speaking to Tennis Australia or his agent and that the timing of it would make it difficult to do so.
“So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have? At 4 o’clock in the morning?” he said, via The Age. “I mean you kind of put me in a very awkward position where at four in the morning I can’t call the director of Tennis Australia, I can’t engage with anybody from the Victorian state government through Tennis Australia. I just – you put me in a very uncomfortable position. I don’t know what else I can tell you. I mean everything that they, I was asked to do is here.”
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after defeating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the men’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Dadswell, File)
Djokovic was told he would have until 8:30 a.m. but his visa was canceled before that.
Despite having his visa reinstated, Djokovic could still be deported depending on the federal government’s decision to revoke his visa again – a move that would ban him from the country for three years.
A spokesperson for Alex Hawke, minister for immigration, citizenship, migrant services and multicultural affairs, acknowledged the court’s decision, adding the minister’s personal discretion remains in play.
“The minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing,” the spokesman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.