Novak Djokovic visa saga LIVE updates: Immigration Minister to make visa decision on Serbian tennis star

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Albanese fiercly critical of Morrison government’s visa handling, but stopped short of urging deportation of Djokovic

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has again stopped short of urging the federal government to deport world No. 1 Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open.

Mr Albanese has been fiercely critical of the Morrison government’s handling of the visa process which allowed the 20-time grand slam winner into the country despite being unvaccinated.

But he has continually refused to say if he believes Immigration Minister Alex Hawke should use his discretionary power to send the tennis star home.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese.Credit:Louise Kennerley

On a tour of regional Queensland, Mr Albanese told reporters at Rockhampton, the birthplace of tennis great Rod Laver, that it was beyond comprehension “how we have got to this point”.

“It should have been resolved at the point in which a visa was applied for. Other people know their relatives, they know how tough it is to get someone into Australia,” he said.

“Australia has a policy of not allowing unvaccinated people into Australia. The government is yet to explain how that occurred. And this has been a debacle yet again.”

Mr Albanese said the government had looked to blame others for the situation and had not taken responsibility.

“This is an international embarrassment for Australia. Everyone knew about Novak Djokovic and the Australian Open. It’s not like we didn’t know when the date was.”

Novak’s aversion to vaccine could jeopardise his future tournaments, says Agassi coach

Novak Djokovic was on course to break the men’s record for grand slam titles but his aversion to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine could jeopardise his participation in future tournaments, Andre Agassi’s former coach Brad Gilbert said.

“If you’d have asked me six months ago or nine months ago, even at the US Open, I thought he was well on his way to smashing the men’s record,” Gilbert, a former player, told reporters.

Brad Gilbert, pictured here at an Australian Open practice session in 2006.Credit:Joe Armao

“I actually thought that he would end up passing Margaret Court. I thought he might get 25 to 27 majors.”

Court, who retired in 1977, holds the all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

“But I think there will be numerous tournaments and other majors he will no longer be able to participate in if he chooses to stay unvaccinated,” Gilbert said.

Djokovic could struggle to get into the United States for March’s Indian Wells and Miami Open Masters 1000 tournaments, as well as events in Canada and other countries.

“I’m not sure every country has medical exemptions for COVID. There might be some for an irregular heartbeat, but it’s going to be a very difficult proposition to be a full-time player being unvaccinated,” Gilbert added.

Former American player Pam Shriver said that if Djokovic is deported, it would be a “big blow” to his already controversial legacy, which includes his default from the 2020 US Open after he inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat with a ball he struck in anger.

“He’s already kind of had enough moments and enough question marks to definitely tarnish his legacy, but certainly nothing will ever tarnish his record 20 majors and counting, his weeks at No. 1, his winning of all of the Masters Series twice,” Shriver said.

‘Rafa could not have put it any better’: On Djokovic, Victorian Premier urges ‘just get vaccinated’

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has once again swatted away questions about the Novak Djokovic debacle, saying visa issues lie solely with the federal government.

However, he said Rafael Nadal “could not have put it any better”.

“Just get vaccinated,” Mr Andrews said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, pictured here in December.Credit:Justin McManus

“That’s what I’ve done, that’s what my kids have done. That’s what…93 per cent of our community has done.

“We’ve had to make some difficult decisions along the way to get to those numbers.”

Mr Andrews also reiterated that the Australian Open is “bigger than any one person…just like the safety of our community is bigger than any one person”.

“It’s called a Grand Slam for a reason,” he said.

The Premier said Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has options when it comes to what to do with Djokovic, “and I would leave it to him to explain what he is or isn’t going to do, and then we deal with that depending on what choice they make”.

“Our view has been very clear – our support has been sought for this visa, and we have refused to offer it because that’s what I said we would do last year,” Mr Andrews said.

Visa decision expected to be made today

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is likely to make a decision today on whether to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa, which would seriously threaten the tennis champion’s chances of competing for his 10th Australian Open title.

Hawke and his office have been shutting themselves off from the wider government, wanting to be seen to be going through the process independently.

Alex Hawke, the man who holds Novak Djokovic’s hopes of winning a 10th Australian Open.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen, Getty Images

If Hawke does make a decision to deport the Serbian tennis star, his lawyers will probably file an injunction against the decision.

If the Federal Circuit Court can’t sit on Friday, this would mean the court process could drag on until next week when the Australian Open is due to begin.

It is unclear whether Djokovic would be forced back into immigration detention immediately, but considering he wouldn’t have a visa this would likely be the case unless he promises to get on the next flight home.

Either way, the story is far from over.

Welcome

Hi and welcome to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald’s live coverage of all things Novak Djokovic today, where we await a decision from federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on whether to cancel, once again, the reigning Australian Open champion’s visa.

Stay tuned.

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