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Placed in detention, Novak Djokovic pending his court decision

World tennis number 1 Novak Djokovic is preparing to defend his chances of playing the Australian Open. The online hearing in federal court is scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m., or midnight in Paris. His lawyers plan to argue in court that he was exempt from vaccination and could enter the country after contracting Covid-19 in December.

Uncertainty reigns over the participation in the hearing of Novak Djokovic, still in his detention center. No one except staff is allowed in or out of the facility, which is located in a former hotel, where thirty-two migrants are also held, caught in the Australian immigration system, some for years.

A handful of protesters gathered on Sunday morning at the bottom of the detention center, where hundreds of supporters, anti-vaccination protesters and migrant rights activists had already gathered the day before in a festive atmosphere.

Supporters of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic gather outside the Park Hotel, where the star athlete is being held, in Melbourne, Australia on January 9, 2022.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said over the weekend that Serbia fully supports the player and that they have had “Constructive talks” with the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs. “We made sure he was given a gluten-free diet, exercise equipment, a laptop”, she told Serbian television Pink.

Entry refused

In an order made public on Sunday, Judge Anthony Kelly said the case would proceed as scheduled, denying a government request to adjourn until Wednesday.

“The date of the first positive PCR test was recorded on December 16, 2021”, which would allow the world number 1 to be exempted from the vaccination imposed by Australia, said Saturday the lawyers of the Serb, 34, in a document filed with the federal court.

Novak Djokovic, however, attended two public events in Belgrade, the day and the day after this positive test in December, according to various publications on social networks: a ceremony in honor of young Serbian players on December 17 – without a mask – and the presentation of a tribute stamp to his effigy the day before.

Read also Australian Open: “There is a feeling of omnipotence in Novak Djokovic”

Tennis Australia granted him an exemption to participate in the tournament, after his request was approved by two independent medical panels, his lawyers said. But, on his arrival in Australia, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, the authorities had refused him entry, considering that his grounds for exemption did not meet the strict conditions for entry into the territory imposed against the Covid-19. .

The Australian government insists that a recent infection with the Covid-19 virus only counts as an exemption for residents only, not for foreign nationals trying to enter the country. Foreigners are still banned from traveling to Australia, and those allowed to enter must be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption.

“The rules are the rules”

For Novak Djokovic, time is running out, eight days before the Australian Open (from January 17 to 30), which he has won nine times and where he aims to afford a 21e Grand Slam tournament, which would place him at the top of tennis history, ahead of his two historic rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

In a video that leaked to the local press on Saturday, Australian Federation boss Craig Tiley, under fire for his handling of the case, defended the ” amazing work “ of its teams. The Federation has been accused of misleading players about vaccination obligations to enter the country. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the revocation of Djokovic’s visa. “The rules are the rules”, did he declare.

Retained as “Djoko” Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova, 38, left Australia on Saturday after having her visa canceled, a government source said. As much of Australia tightened restrictions to fight a new wave linked to the Omicron variant, the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, recorded 44,155 new cases on Sunday.

Read also Covid-19: losing setback for Novak Djokovic

The World with AFP

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