World No. 1 Novak Djokovic's visa has been canceled for a second time by the Australian government, putting his Australian Open participation in jeopardy. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised his personal power to cancel the Serb's visa, saying it was in the public's interest to do so.
Djokovic arrived at Melbourne airport last week, but was detained by the country's Border Force officials, who revoked his visa after deeming that he did not meet the criteria for unvaccinated entry. Djokovic and legal team took the matter to court, where Judge Kelly ruled that he should have his visa reinstated and released from detention.
But on Friday, Alex Hawke decided to take matters into his own hands and cancel Djokovic's visa again using separate powers in Australia's Migration Act.
"Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," Hawke said in a statement.
"The decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a poor cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds. In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr. Djokovic."
Hawke asserted that the government was "firmly committed" to protecting Australian citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force who work every day to serve Australia's interests in increasingly challenging operational environments," he said.
Reports suggested Australia's immigration authorities were investigating a false declaration made by Djokovic on his travel form. The Serb declared that he had not visited any country in the 14 days before arriving in Australia when he had in fact traveled to Spain.
Djokovic later released a statement in which he said the mistake was made by his agent. The World No. 1 also confirmed that he had sat down for an interview with a journalist despite knowing he had COVID-19.
Novak Djokovic could be deported from Australia
The Australian Open draw was revealed on Thursday with Djokovic scheduled to take on compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round. However, Hawke's decision to rescind the Serb's visa has raised further doubts over Djokovic's Melbourne title defense.
Djokovic's lawyers are expected to challenge Hawke's ruling, but if they are unsuccessful, the World No. 1 could be deported from Australia immediately and barred from entering the country for three years.
If Djokovic is forced to pull out of the Australian Open before the order of play for the first day is released, his place in the draw will be taken by fifth seed Andrey Rublev. However, if he withdraws after the order of play is released, then he will be replaced by a lucky loser.
If the Serb does not participate in the Australian Open, he could lose the No. 1 ranking to Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev.