Novak Djokovic Leaves Australia, Faces Possible 3-Year Ban

Novak Djokovic's long-running battle with the Australian government to stay in the country and defend his Australian Open title appears to be at an end.

A federal court on Sunday dismissed his appeal against the cancellation of his visa, hours before the tournament is scheduled to get underway.

He was facing likely deportation after the three-judge panel's decision to uphold Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision to cancel the Serbian's visa.

Djokovic left Australia hours after the ruling and was seen at Melbourne Airport with two Australian government officials in black uniforms, according to NPR. He boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai.

An appeal to Australia's High Court was possible yet unlikely to succeed.

Most appeal applications to that court are rejected, according to the country's 7News. As Djokovic has now left Australia, it appears he did not seek an appeal.

A deportation order also usually includes a three-year ban from re-entering Australia and the order is generally carried out soon after it is issued.

It is not yet known if Djokovic has received a ban.

Djokovic is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and his visit to Australia to compete at the Australian Open has become the focus significant media attention around the globe.

His visa had been cancelled on the grounds that the tennis star's presence in the country could be a risk to "good order" and public health and that it "may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia."

Djokovic's lawyers argued that the decision had failed to consider the effect canceling the visa would have on those Australians who were against the COVID-19 vaccine. They argued that the government's actions in this case would increase anti-vaccine sentiment rather than Djokovic's presence.

Novak Djokovic leaves the Park Hotel
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic leaves the Park Hotel on January 16, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Djokovic left the country after a federal court ruled the Australian government did have the right to withhold his visa that would allow him to play in the Australian Open. Diego Fedele/Getty Images

However, the three-judge panel ultimately ruled unanimously in favor of the minister and Chief Justice James Allsop said the ruling was about whether the decision was "irrational or legally unreasonable."

"It is no part of the function of the court to decide upon the merits or wisdom of the decision," Allsop said.

"This is not an appeal against the decision of the executive government," the chief justice said. "It is an application to the court as a separate arm of the government ... to review ... the lawfulness or the legality of the decision."

Novak Djokovic reacts on the tennis court
Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. The tennis star looks set for deportation fro the country as a result of his unvaccinated status. Getty Images/Daniel Pockett

The judges did not provide a written explanation for their decision but said they will do so in the coming days. Djokovic was ordered to pay the court costs incurred by the Australian government.

In a statement, Djokovic said: "I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open."

"I respect the Court's ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country," he said.

"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love," the statement added.

Djokovic's visa was initially canceled by Border Force agents at Melbourne Airport because he is not vaccinated but he appealed that decision and a court overturned the cancellation. The tennis player argued that he had a medical exemption from Australia's vaccine requirements because he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in December.

Hawke, the immigration minister, reviewed the matter and canceled Djokovic's visa on a different basis - his previous statements about vaccination and the possibility that others might refuse the vaccine as a result.

Novak Djokovic Practices on Court
Novak Djokovic of Serbia practices on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 11, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Djokovic is likely to be deported from Australia after a three-judge court upheld his visa cancellation. Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Correction 1/16/21, 8.23 a.m. ET: This article was corrected to note that the Federal Court's decision was made on Sunday, not on Saturday as previously stated.

Update 1/16/21, 8.23 a.m. ET: This article and headline were updated to reflect that Novak Djokovic had left Australia, and to include further information.

Update 1/16/21, 9.46 a.m. ET: A photo showing Djokovic leaving a hotel was added.