Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic is appealing his Australian visa cancellation for a second time after the country’s minister of immigration revoked it in an ongoing saga over his coronavirus vaccine status.
He is supposed to be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Australian Open tournament, which he has won a record nine times already. But he might not get to play this year and has been threatened with arrest and even deportation.
Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration, citizen and migrant services, said in a statement Friday that he was exercising power under the country’s Migration Act to cancel Djokovic’s visa once again, days after a judge overturned the first cancellation.
Defending men’s champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic practices on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. AP Photo/Mark Baker)
( AP Photo/Mark Baker)
He said he did so “on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”
He framed Djokovic’s vaccine status as a border security issue and said he based his decision after receiving information from the country’s Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force.
In response, the Border Force said it could confirm that Djokovic “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia.”
“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia,” the Force said in a statement.
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Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns a shot to during the first round of the US Open tennis championships, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) ( )
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Defending men’s champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic gestures during a practice session on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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FILE – Defending men’s champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic rests during a practice session on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)
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Defending champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic takes a drink during a practice session at the Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Kelly Defina/Pool Photo via AP)
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Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action during the Davis Cup Finals 2021, Semifinal 1, tennis match played between Croatia and Serbia at Madrid Arena pabilion on December 03, 2021, in Madrid, Spain. (Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Djokovic was expected to meet with authorities and be placed in immigration detention – which in his case could be a hotel similar to the one he spent four nights in last week during his initial visa snafu.
The Border Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Djokovic’s whereabouts.
Djokovic, a 20-time major champion and the top-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, is unvaccinated.
But Australian rules require all Australian Open participants and foreign visitors to be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption.
In an Instagram post Wednesday, Djokovic said he tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-December. He canceled most of his public appearances but sat for an interview with a French magazine, during which he said he socially distanced and wore a mask, except for when he posed for a photo.
Then he went into isolation ahead of the tournament.
“It is always an honor and a privilege to play in the Australian Open,” he said. “The Australian Open is much-loved by players, fans and the community, not just in Victoria and in Australia, but around the globe.”
Djokovic had argued last month that because he contracted COVID-19 naturally, he should get a medical exemption to the vaccine requirement under the tournament’s rules. Officials initially granted him one – but the Australian Border Force canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne last week.
A judge overturned that decision earlier this week.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and Sarah Rumpf and The Associated Press contributed to this report.