Novak Djokovic, the world number one tennis player, won a surprise win over the Australian government on Monday, overturning the cancellation of his visa on Covid-19 health grounds and ending his imprisonment.
It was a huge blow for Australia, which has been imposing severe pandemic restrictions on entering international visitors for the past two years. Despite the player's success, the Australian government's counsel told the court that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may still elect to utilise his "personal power of cancellation."
Djokovic, 34, landed in Melbourne last week in preparation for the Australian Open, which begins in just one week. Officers at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, however, ruled the unvaccinated star had failed to show a valid medical justification for not being vaccinated.
His visa was cancelled, and he was detained at an immigration detention centre, where he would be deported. The judge said the government had decided to drop its visa decision in an emergency online court meeting Monday, and he ordered Djokovic's immediate release. He was released almost immediately then.
Djokovic has been held at the former Park Hotel, which houses roughly 32 migrants caught up in Australia's harsh immigration system, some of whom have been detained for years. Djokovic's early request to be moved to a facility where he could train for the Australian Open was ignored, according to his lawyers.