It’s looking more and more like the Australian Open main draw may start Monday without men’s singles top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic. Djokovic (seen above at the U.S. Open in September) has had quite the saga ahead of the tournament, initially being detained and having his visa canceled over his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, then having that decision reversed by a judge. But on Friday evening in Australia, government immigration minister Alex Hawke revoked Djokovic’s visa again. That’s not assured to keep Djokovic out of the tournament, as he can still appeal to the courts, but migration law expert Sangeetha Pillai told Michael E. Miller of The Washington Post Hawke’s decision to do this under ministerial discretion presents Djokovic with a tough battle to get a court to overturn that, especially in the short timeframe here:
Because of the way in which Hawke personally canceled Djokovic’s visa Friday, the tennis player’s attorneys will have much less room to challenge the decision this time around, said Sangeetha Pillai, a migration law expert at the Kaldor Center for International Refugee Law.
“The odds are really against him,” she said of Djokovic. “The chance of him getting a result, let alone a result that helps him before the Open starts, is looking increasingly small.”
Immigration lawyer Kian Bone spelled out the particular orders Djokovic would need to John Pye and Rod McGuirk of The Associated Press:
Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers face an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play next week.
Speaking hours before Hawke’s decision was announced, Bone said: “If you left it any later than he has done now, I think from a strategic standpoint, he’s really hamstringing Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of what sort of options or remedies he could obtain.”
Djokovic’s lawyers would need to go before a duty judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court, or a higher judge of the Federal Court, to get two urgent orders. One order would be an injunction preventing his deportation, such as what he won in court last week. The second would force Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.
“That second order is almost not precedented,” Bone said. “Very rarely do the courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”
Djokovic’s lawyers began their appeal late Friday night, and are expected to meet with him and immigration officials Saturday morning. He’s supposed to play beginning Monday, with the tournament’s opening day featuring the top half of the draw. If he withdraws before the match times Monday are announced, the seeds get reshuffled, with No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev moving into the top spot and seeds below that also moving up, but if he withdraws after that point but before the tournament start, his place would be filled by a “lucky loser” who lost in the qualifying round of the tournament. We’ll see what happens with Djokovic’s appeal.