Threat to public? Djokovic again detained in Melbourne

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 15 2022 08:57 AM | Updated as of Jan 15 2022 09:30 AM

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic rests during a training session at Melbourne Park, as questions remain over the legal battle regarding his visa to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne, on January 14, 2022. Diego Fedele, AAP Image via Reuters
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic rests during a training session at Melbourne Park, as questions remain over the legal battle regarding his visa to play in the Australian Open in Melbourne, on January 14, 2022. Diego Fedele, AAP Image via Reuters

Novak Djokovic was again detained in Australia on Saturday, after authorities ripped up his visa for a second time and declared the unvaccinated tennis superstar a threat to the public.

Court documents showed the 34-year-old Serbian was currently being detained at an address in Melbourne, as his appeal against deportation is heard.

Just 2 days before the Australian Open begins, the world No. 1 is again focused on law courts rather than center court in the latest twist in a high-profile row over Djokovic's COVID-19 vaccine status.

Immigration minister Alex Hawke now claims Djokovic's continued presence in the country could "foster anti-vaccination sentiment" and even spark an "increase in civil unrest".

Djokovic was summoned to appear before immigration officials in Melbourne ahead of emergency Federal Court hearings on Saturday and Sunday.

He was allowed to follow court proceedings from an address — believed to be his lawyers' offices — under guard of two Australian Border Force officers.

This is the second attempt by Australia's conservative government to deport Djokovic, one of the world's most high-profile Covid-19 vaccine skeptics.

The 34-year-old Serbian used a medical exemption to enter Australia earlier this month, hoping to challenge for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Open.

Amid public outcry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government revoked Djokovic's visa on arrival.

Many Australians — who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions — believe Djokovic gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements.

But the government was humiliated when a judge reinstated Djokovic's visa and allowed him to remain in the country.

This time, the government has invoked exceptional — and difficult to challenge — executive powers to declare him a threat to public health and safety. 

The government argues that Djokovic's presence is a threat to public health and order, particularly as Australia suffers a tidal wave of Omicron infections.