A looming decision about whether to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa may not the be the end of the saga, with the world number 1 reportedly expected to immediately launch a legal challenge.
Djokovic faces another D-Day in his battle to defend his Australian Open title as he waits to hear whether the Australian government will revoke his visa for a second time.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who has the discretionary power to cancel the visa, was expected to announced his decision on Friday.
Yet the unvaccinated Djokovic, who has now learned his first round opponent in the grand slam — probably next Monday or Tuesday — will be his fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, is reportedly determined to continue the fight should the verdict go against him.
Multiple reports suggest that the government is leaning towards revoking the visa again and that Djokovic’s lawyers would immediately launch a legal appeal over any attempt at deportation, with the start of the grand slam less than 72 hours away.
Djokovic was continuing to practise at the Rod Laver Arena where he’s won his nine Australian Open crowns as if he were preparing as usual.
Yet the noise surrounding the 34-year-old’s potential reappearance continues to be deafening, with Djokovic’s cause clearly not helped by his admission that a wrong entry declaration had been made on his visa.
A box was ticked that confirmed he had not travelled abroad in the two weeks before leaving for Australia, even though he had actually been to Spain from Serbia.
He also acknowledged he shouldn’t have done an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper while infected with COVID-19 before Christmas.
One online poll by the News Corp media group showed that 83% of respondents were now backing the idea of the government trying to deport Djokovic.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians disapproved of Djokovic’s stance, saying: “Most of us thought because Mr Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice that he would be asked to leave – well, that was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view.
“The vast majority of Australians … didn’t like the idea that another individual, whether they’re a tennis player or … the king of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules to what everybody else has to deal with.”
Top players were also continuing to have their say, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of Djokovic’s biggest rivals for the title, asserting on Thursday: “For sure, he’s (Djokovic) been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do.
“Especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country.”
All-time great Martina Navratilova had advice for Djokovic, saying that sometimes your personal beliefs have to be trumped by what’s good for the greater good, for those around you, for your peers.”
Urging him to “suck it up” and go home, she added: “Get vaccinated or just don’t go play.”
Spanish officials are also investigating the Serbian for potential border breaches.
Djokovic travelled to Spain in late December for training ahead of the Grand Slam.
However, travellers from Serbia have been required to show a vaccination certificate or have a valid medical exemption in order to enter Spain.
His trip to Spain has also thrown Djokovic in hot water in Australia.
The Serbian star wrote on his travel declaration form he had not travelled to other countries in a two-week period before his flight to Australia.
Djokovic was seen training in Spain, with social media footage also emerging of him playing tennis in Serbia, both in the 14-day period.
The tennis star said on social media earlier this week an agent had made a mistake in filling out the declaration form.
The tennis star is vying for a record 21st Grand Slam title, should Djokovic be allowed to compete.
Djokovic playing by ‘own rules’: Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas says Novak Djokovic has been “playing by his own rules” and is making other players “look like they’re all fools or something” by not following Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
“For sure, he’s been playing by his own rules and has been doing what not many players had the guts to do, especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country,” Greece world No.4 Tsitsipas told India’s WION news channel.
“No one really thought they could come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols… it takes a lot of daring to do and putting the grand slam at risk, which I don’t think many players would do.”
The ATP, which governs men’s tennis, has said 97 of the top 100 male players are vaccinated.
American Tennys Sandgren told reporters earlier this month that he had pulled out of the Australian Open due to the vaccine mandate and he opted not to apply for a medical exemption.
Asked if Djokovic should defend his title at Melbourne Park next week as his visa saga continues, Tsitsipas said: “There are two ways to look at it.
“One side of it is that almost every single player is fully vaccinated… and have followed the protocols to play in Australia.
“On the other hand, it seems not everyone is playing by the rules… a very small majority chose to follow their own way, which kind of makes the majority look like fools.”