Australia revoked the visa of tennis star Novak Djokovic on Friday for the second time, the latest development in controversy over the entry of the men's world No. 1, who has not been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Djokovic's visa was rescinded "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," pointing to Canberra's commitment to protecting Australia's borders during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the decision, stressing the country's strong border protection policies.
"Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today," Morrison said in a statement.
The Serbian player immediately challenged the government's decision in Federal Circuit and Family Court again, seeking to stay in the country to play for a record 21st Grand Slam title in the upcoming Australian Open, slated to begin on Monday.
The court in Melbourne held a hearing on Djokovic's appeal Friday night as his lawyers rushed to have it completed in time for the men's top seed to play in the first round of the tournament on Monday, if his challenge is successful.
The court judge, Anthony Kelly, said Djokovic cannot be deported while his legal challenge is under way, adding he will not be detained for the night ahead of a meeting with immigration officials Saturday morning.
Following the meeting, however, the tennis star will be taken into immigration detention though he will be allowed to remain with his lawyers under the supervision of border force officers while the lawyers prepare submissions for the court and hearings are under way, Kelly said.
The judge further ordered the case be transferred to the Federal Court, a superior court.
If Djokovic's appeal is dismissed, he will be ordered to be deported. But whether the government will enforce a ban on his re-entry to Australia for three years as part of the deportation order is yet to be seen.
Upon his arrival in the country earlier this month, his visa was revoked by the Australian Border Force after it was deemed he had not provided sufficient evidence to be granted a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement imposed on all travelers entering Australia.
Djokovic had been released from an immigration hotel in Melbourne on Monday this week after winning an expedited legal battle against the initial cancellation of his Australian visa.
But questions have been raised about whether Djokovic made false claims on the border entry form for Australia.
The matter, however, was not mentioned by Hawke in his statement Friday.
The record nine-time Australian Open winner is seeking his 21st overall Grand Slam title in the upcoming tournament, a feat that would see him surpass Swiss Roger Federer and Spaniard Rafael Nadal to take the men's record for most Grand Slam titles.