Djokovic wins deportation delay after Australia cancels visa

Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic won a temporary reprieve in his deportation from Australia yesterday.

Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic won a temporary reprieve in his deportation from Australia yesterday, but was set to spend the night in an immigration detention facility as he fights to remain in the country.

The vaccine-sceptic Serb was detained on arrival at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport having failed to "provide appropriate evidence" of double vaccination or a medical exemption.

Djokovic had jetted into Melbourne on Wednesday hoping to defend his Australian Open crown and to bid for an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam title, despite Australia's tough COVID restrictions.

Instead of a conquering champion's welcome, he was questioned at the airport overnight before having his visa revoked and being transferred to a Melbourne immigration detention facility.

After an emergency court appeal, a judge ordered that the star would not be deported before Monday, when a final hearing will be held.

For months there had been speculation about whether Djokovic would play in the January 17-30 event.

Then, ahead of his arrival, a jubilant Djokovic boasted on Instagram that he had scored an unexpected medical exemption to play.

The 34-year-old has refused to reveal his vaccine status, but has previously voiced opposition to being jabbed. He has contracted COVID-19 at least once.

Amid widespread outcry at Djokovic's apparent star treatment, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "rules are rules and there are no special cases."

Australians have been unable to travel or welcome family from overseas for much of the last two years.

Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice president, said the exemption sent an "appalling message" to people trying to stop the rampant spread of COVID-19.

But the Serb's treatment on arrival prompted fury among his fans and a rebuke from Serbia's president.

"The whole of Serbia is with him and ... our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world's best tennis player ends as soon as possible," President Aleksandar Vucic said after speaking to Djokovic over the phone. "In line with all standards of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, justice and truth."

Sanja, a 35-year-old Serbian-Australian fan, had been looking forward to seeing him play. "He went through a civil war to play tennis. He's done nothing wrong to the world."

Djokovic is believed to be detained at the Park Hotel, which the Australian government terms an "Alternative Place of Detention."

As word of Djokovic's arrival spread, Serbian flag-festooned supporters, anti-vaccine campaigners, refugee advocates and police descended on the already controversial facility.

Supporter Gordana said she was there to show support and to "free Djokovic to play."

With 10 days before the tournament begins, it is far from clear that Djokovic will be able to play, even if he wins his challenge. Judge Anthony Kelly warned that justice will move at its own pace, and through all necessary appeals. "The tail won't be tagging the dog here," he said.

Tournament organizers also face tough questions.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said Djokovic had no special treatment and just 26 of the approximately 3,000 players and support staff traveling to Australia for the tournament had applied for a vaccine exemption. Only a handful had been successful.

Those individuals also look set to face added scrutiny now.

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