A judge has dramatically quashed the decision by the Australian government to revoke Novak Djokovic’s entry visa.
Judge Anthony Kelly ordered the immediate release of the world number one tennis star from detention, where he has been since arriving at Melbourne airport on Wednesday.
The Australian government has also been ordered to pay for his costs.
Djokovic’s lawyers had argued that the cancellation was unreasonable, with the government acknowledging that he did not have enough time to respond following the notification to cancel the visa, however, the government still insists that the 34-year-olds recent Covid infection does not make him eligible for vaccine exemption.
Lawyer Nick Wood informed the court that two separate medical boards had granted Djokovic exemption after his recent bout of Covid and that all necessary medical evidence had been provided to officials.
The player was told he would have until 08:30 local time last Thursday to make comments about the visa cancellation under section 116 of the Australian Migration Act, but the Border Force made the final decision shortly after 07:40.
“We all play by the same rules,” Judge Kelly said. “Stated in other terms: those rules were not observed.”
Despite being ordered to be released within 30 minutes after the decision, at the time of writing, the Serbian is yet to reappear.
Australia’s immigration minister is also considering whether he has other grounds to re-cancel Djokovic’s visa.
The Serbian government has reacted in outrage at the treatment of the 20-time Grand Slam champion, with Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić saying the country had offered support to the tennis star.
“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately,” he said in a statement.
Abul Rizvi, a former official in Australia’s Department of Immigration, told the BBC that even if Djokovic is allowed to play, “the Australian public will be angry at what’s happened here”, and angry that the star “did not get himself vaccinated”.
“Assuming that the Australian government doesn’t try to cancel his visa again and he is actually allowed to play at the Australian Open, I think there will be a lot of difficulties for Djokovic from the Australian crowds,” he said.
Australian tennis player, Nick Kyrios, who had previously supported Djokovic last week, has tested positive ahead of the tournament that starts in Melbourne on January 17, but he remains hopeful he can still compete.
“I just want to be open and transparent with everyone, the reason I have had to pull out of Sydney is because I tested positive for Covid,” Kyrgios said on Instagram.
“I am feeling healthy at the moment with no symptoms. I wish everyone all the best and to stay safe where you can. If all goes well I will see you all at the Australian Open.”
Defending champion Djokovic will become the most successful player in history if he defends his Australian Open title.