There has been major confusion over how Djokovic was given an exemption to enter the country, without having disclosed his vaccination status. Tennis Australia gave him the exemption after it was cleared by two medical panels, but the Australian governments rules are different and therefore Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion was not allowed to enter the country and his visa was revoked. His lawyers managed to keep him in Melbourne in a quarantine-detention hotel while they took the case to a federal court.
AS IT HAPPENED
On Monday (January 10), the judge hearing the case ruled in the 20 time Grand Slam champions favour and ordered a release from detention and for all his documents, including his passport to be returned to him.
The Australian Government’s lawyer however has told the court that the Immigration Minister can still choose to use his ‘personal power of cancellation’, despite Djokovic’s victory in court.
Here is the full timeline of the events as they unfolded:
January 4 — Novak Djokovic announces that he is heading to the Australian Open to defend his title after being granted a medical exemption to play.
All participants at the Australian Open, which starts on January 17, need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a medical exemption, assessed by an independent panel of experts.
The Serb has repeatedly refused to confirm if he has been inoculated, with his participation at the opening Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park the subject of intense speculation for months.
“I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!” the nine-time Australian Open winner tweeted.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings… https://t.co/B6kYrsJt4R
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) 1641293718000
January 5 — Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley says 26 players or their support staff from the 3,000 or so traveling had asked for an exemption, but only a few were successful.
January 5 — Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice-president, said it sent an “appalling message” to people trying to stop the spread of Covid-19.
January 5 — Late Wednesday (January 5), Djokovic lands at Melbourne airport.
January 6 — Australia says it has cancelled the entry visa of Djokovic on his arrival in Melbourne.
January 6 — Djokovic is moved to an immigration detention centre while his lawyers lodge an appeal.
January 6 — The incident sparks an immediate spat. Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic says he spoke with Djokovic over the phone and told him that “the whole of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world’s best tennis player ends as soon as possible”.
January 6 — Djokovic’s lawyers file an appeal in an Australian Federal Court. Hearing fixed for January 10.
Fans of Novak Djokovic show their support outside the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne. (Reuters Photo)
January 7 — However, Djokovic’s long-time rival and fellow 20-time major winner Rafael Nadal says: “He made his own decisions and everybody’s free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.”
January 8 — Djokovic thanks fans for their support. “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,” he wrote on Instagram.
January 8 — Czech doubles player Renata Voracova, who also entered on an exemption as she had recently recovered from Covid, ends up in the same detention facility as Djokovic.
January 8 — The 38-year-old tells Czech media the centre “is like a prison” with guards on every floor.
January 8 — Djokovic was given a Covid-19 vaccine exemption because he tested positive for the virus on December 16, his lawyers say in a 32-page court filing.
January 8 — However, it is then shown to the court that Djokovic was at a gathering the very same day and then attended a young players event in Belgrade the following day (December 17). No one at the event according to reports was wearing a mask.
January 8 — His lawyers claim that he was held at Melbourne airport on his arrival for eight hours, mostly incommunicado.
Police officers guard an entrance to the Park Hotel, where Novak Djokovic has been held. (Reuters Photo)
January 9 — Djokovic’s family claims he is a victim of a political agenda and that the visa row is aimed at ‘stomping on Serbia’.
January 9 — Voracova leaves Australia.
January 10 — Hours before the hearing a pro-refugee banner is unfurled from the roof of the detention centre and police removed a small number of protestors who were protesting at the scene.
January 10 — Court hearing begins. Proceedings repeatedly delayed after the court’s online system crashed under a surge of worldwide interest. Anti-vaccine activists share a link to the live stream and defy a court order by broadcasting proceedings live on YouTube.
January 10 — Judge decides to move ahead without a public live stream.
Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan Djokovic (C) poses with a fan holding a painting of Novak Djokovic during a rally in front of Serbia’s National Assembly, in Belgrade. (AFP Photo)
January 10 — Judge says he is ‘somewhat agitated’ and asks ‘what more could this man (Djokovic) have done’. Early signs indicated things are going well for Djokovic.
January 10 — Djokovic wins court case, Australian judge orders release from detention within 30 minutes. Decision seen as a huge setback for the Australian government.
January 10 — Australian government may yet order Djokovic deported, says government lawyer.
January 10 — Australian Government’s lawyer tells the court that the Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, can still choose to use his “personal power of cancellation”, despite Djokovic’s victory in court. This would mean his visa being re-cancelled, thereby once again stopping him from playing in the Australian Open.