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Djokovic 'extremely disappointed' with visa cancellation, will leave Australia

Djokovic 'extremely disappointed' with visa cancellation, will leave Australia

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Third Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 24, 2020 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during the match against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

MELBOURNE: Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic said in a statement on Sunday (Jan 16) that he was "extremely disappointed" with the decision to cancel his visa to enter Australia, but would cooperate with the authorities in relation to his departure from the country.

Hours earlier, three judges at the Federal Court had unanimously dismissed the unvaccinated Serbian superstar's last-gasp attempt to overturn the government's cancellation of his visa.

The Serbian champion said he hoped the focus would now return to tennis and the Australian Open Grand Slam, which starts in Melbourne on Monday.

"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love," said Djokovic, who had been scheduled to play on Monday evening as the first seed.

"I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament," he said.

"Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me."

Djokovic had appealed Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision to cancel his visa on the grounds that he was a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amid Australia's worst COVID-19 outbreak.

"I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this," the 34-year-old said in a statement after the court dismissed his case.

"I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.

"I respect the Court's ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country."

Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, was granted a medical exemption to compete at the Melbourne Park major, a tournament he has won nine times including the last three editions.

The defending Australian Open champion flew into Melbourne on Jan 5 hoping to win the title for a 10th time, in the process becoming the first men's player in the history of the game to grab 21 Grand Slam titles.

In an 11-day battle over his lack of a COVID-19 vaccine that captured global attention, the tennis ace had his visa cancelled at Melbourne airport, reinstated on a procedural issue and then cancelled again by the government.

He spent his first few nights in Australia at a notorious Melbourne detention centre, walked free to practice on the Australian Open's courts for several days after he won back his visa, and then was returned into detention.

Rafa Nadal, who is tied with Djokovic on 20 major titles, said "too many questions" still needed to be answered concerning the Serb's bid to play the tournament, while other leading players lamented how Slam has been overshadowed by the saga.

"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love," Djokovic said, while also thanking those that supported him.

"I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament."

Source: Agencies/ic

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