Novak Djokovic has been freed from immigration detention in Australia hours after a judge ruled that border guards were wrong to tear up his visa and try to deport him because he is not vaccinated against Covid.
A black car thought to be carrying the 34-year-old tennis ace drove out of legal offices where a virtual court hearing had taken place earlier in the day, and was immediately mobbed by fans who fought with officers using pepper spray to keep them back.
Djokovic leaving Australian immigration detention facility after winning visa battle
It came moments after immigration minister Alex Hawke delayed a decision over whether or not to use his personal powers to tear up Djokovic’s visa a second time and deport him in spite of the court ruling.
Mr Hawke had been given a four-hour limit to decide whether the powers should be used, but the time elapsed. It means that Djokovic can no longer be detained, though Mr Hawke can still cancel his visa at any time – a move that the government insists it is still considering.
But in the meantime Djokovic is free to compete at the Australia Open, which is due to begin on January 17, where his is bidding to become the most-decorated athlete in men’s singles history.
Djokovic’s family are now planning to hold a press conference in Serbia, where they have been leading protests against his detention.
Today’s rapid-fire developments are just the latest twists and turns in a tale that began Wednesday when Djokovic arrived in Australia to compete in the Open holding what he thought was a valid medical exemption to vaccination rules, stating that he had been infected with Covid last month and recovered.
But border guards rejected the documents and tore up the visa, with Djokovic thrown into detention alongside refugees while he waited for his appeal to come before the courts.
That hearing took place today, with Judge Anthony Kelly dramatically quashing the decision to revoke his visa after ruling that border guards had been ‘unreasonable’ and had not given Djokovic enough time to appeal.