Djokovic free but Australia deportation threat still looms

Twitter/NovakDjokovic

Novak Djokovic woke up on Tuesday to his first morning outside immigration detention in Australia, almost a week after he flew into the country - and into an international furore over his COVID-19 vaccination status.

However, the world number one still faces the threat of being detained by the federal government for a second time and deported, despite Monday's court ruling quashing the government's earlier decision to cancel his visa.

Djokovic was back in training hours after winning that court challenge, thanking the judge who released him from immigration detention and saying he remained focused on trying to win a record 21st tennis major at next week's Australian Open.

"I am pleased and grateful that the judge overturned my visa cancellation," Djokovic wrote on Twitter, where he posted a photograph of himself on court at Melbourne Park after a chaotic few days. "Despite all that has happened I want to stay and try to compete at the Australian Open."

Djokovic's plight drew international attention, creating a political spat between Canberra and Belgrade and fuelling heated debates over mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office said he spoke with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Monday. Morrison's office said the Australian leader had "explained our non-discriminatory border policy," while Serbian media reports said Brnabic emphasised the importance of Djokovic being able to prepare for the tournament. Both said they agreed to stay in contact on the issue.

John Alexander, a member of Morrison's Liberal Party and a former professional tennis player, said it would be a mistake for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to use his discretionary powers to deport the Serbian player.

To do so would "diminish" the status of the Australian Open, Alexander said.

"We had previously been the poor cousin of the four events," he said. "We've got a lot going for us, but we need to treat it carefully."

Hawke's office said late on Monday the minister was still considering whether he would use his discretion under the Migration Act to cancel Djokovic's visa for a second time. Spokespeople for the minister did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

The ATP, the governing body of men's tennis applauded the court ruling, saying the dispute was "damaging on all fronts, including for Novak's well-being and preparation for the Australian Open".

The ATP said the situation highlighted the need for clearer understanding and communication of the rules. It said it strongly recommends all players get vaccinated and noted that 97 per cnet of the top 100 players are vaccinated.

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