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Novak Djokovic detained again at Melbourne, Australian Open fate to be decided on Sunday

Novak Djokovic

Melbourne, January 15: Novak Djokovic was detained once again by Australian border force officials ahead of Saturday's (January 15) crucial hearing, according to reports.

It was agreed in court on Friday (January 14) that the world number one tennis star would be detained in Melbourne,

Djokovic, whose visa was revoked for a second time on Friday despite the 34-year-old winning his initial case on Monday, was granted permission to remain at his accommodation.

But it was agreed he would be detained at in Melbourne when he was due to report for an interview with immigration officials.

The 34-year-old is fighting the decision, and lawyer Nick Wood, on behalf of Djokovic, contended in a directions hearing that the "underlying new rationale" behind the Australian government's latest move to kick out the Serbian is that it contends his presence "will excite anti-vax sentiment".

Wood said immigration minister Alex Hawke had given no consideration to the impact that deporting Djokovic may have among those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, saying his client was of "negligible risk", "of good standing" and had a medical contraindication to a vaccine.

In a statement released on Friday, Hawke said the decision had been taken "on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so".

The case has been transferred from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, judge Anthony Kelly said, and will take place via video link.

Whatever decision is made, this is woeful preparation for Djokovic ahead of the tournament where he was planning to mount an assault on a 10th Australian Open title, and a record-setting 21st grand slam.

Djokovic will then be allowed to attend meetings with his solicitors in person from on Saturday, accompanied by Border Force officials, before returning to a detention hotel until he is reunited with his solicitors on Sunday (January 16).

To avoid possible disorder on the streets, he is set to meet his legal team away from their Melbourne offices, where fans gathered and unruly behaviour took place following Djokovic's first effort to clear a path to play at the tournament that begins on Monday.

Should Djokovic lose his case, he faces being deported from Australia.

Australian Open fate

Djokovic's Australian Open fate will be determined on Sunday (January 15) although it remains to be decided if it will be in front of a full court or single judge.

The hearing was adjourned with the only contention that Djokovic's lawyers are in favour of the case being held before more than one judge, meaning no appeal is possible.

Stephen Lloyd, who was appearing on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, did not agree, with the court expected to make a decision later on Saturday.

“We say there isn’t a justification for stepping out of the ordinary," Lloyd told the court.

Djokovic is scheduled to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round in Melbourne on Monday (January 17).

(With OPTA inputs)

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Story first published: Saturday, January 15, 2022, 8:50 [IST]
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