The Serbian tennis champ faces being deported and a three-year ban from Australia if he loses his appeal at the Federal Court of Australia amid a row over whether he had a valid exemption to the country’s Covid vaccine requirements.
He was driven back to the Park Hotel ahead of a hearing at 9.30am on Sunday in Melbourne, which takes place at 10.30pm UK time on Saturday evening.
Judge Justice David O’Callaghan held a brief hearing on Saturday morning where it was confirmed the case was being transferred to the Federal Court.
On Friday, Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, used his ministerial discretion to revoke the world No 1’s visa on public interest grounds ahead of the Australian Open, which is due to begin on Monday.
Mr Hawke cited Djokovic’s status as a “high profile unvaccinated individual, who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against Covid-19” and said he had “publicly expressed anti-vaccination sentiment”.
He went on to say that, as a “high profile unvaccinated individual”, not cancelling Djokovic’s visa could dissuade Australians from getting vaccinated.
“I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community,” Mr Hawke said.
Nick Wood, representing Djokovic, said the decision to cancel the Serbian player’s visa was “patently irrational”.
He said Mr Hawke was “prejudicing” Djokovic’s career over anti-vaccination comments he made in 2020.
Djokovic is scheduled to play on the opening day of the tournament as he defends his title.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner was detained at Melbourne Airport last Thursday morning by Border Force officials who said he didn’t have the correct paperwork to enter the country.
Djkokovic’s legal team appealed on the basis he had tested positive on 16 December and had an exemption due to natural immunity.
But despite Tennis Australia accepting that argument, the Australian government insisted that no such federal exemption existed.
In an initial successful appeal against his deportation, Judge Anthony Kelly decided Djokovic wasn’t given enough time to respond after being told his visa was being cancelled.
The Australian government’s Immigration department exercised its right to cancel his visa for a second time on Friday, leaving the world No 1 facing deportation.
Djokovic has admitted his declaration form falsely claimed he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his trip to Australia, which he attributed to a mistake from his agent.