Australian judge says Djokovic can stay but saga not over

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tennis star Novak Djokovic won a court battle Monday to stay in Australia to contest the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, but the drama might not be finished, with the government threatening to cancel his visa a second time and deport him.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstated Djokovic’s visa, which was revoked after his arrival last week because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated.

The judge ruled the No. 1 player had not been given enough time to speak to his lawyers before that decision was made and ordered the government to release him within 30 minutes from a Melbourne quarantine hotel where he has spent the last four nights.

But government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge that the immigration minister “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation.”

That would mean that the nine-time Australian Open winner and defending champion could again face deportation and could miss the tournament, which starts on Jan. 17. It could also bar him from the country for three years.

The back and forth has gripped the world and caused a furor in Australia, where many initially decried the news that Djokovic, who has been a vocal skeptic of vaccines, had received an exemption to strict rules to compete in Melbourne. Many felt the star was being given special treatment since Australians who aren’t vaccinated face tough travel and quarantine restrictions. Court documents say he is unvaccinated.

But when border police then blocked him on arrival, others cried foul, saying he was being scapegoated by an Australian government facing criticism for its recent handling of the pandemic.

Speaking with television network Prva in Belgrade, Serbia, the tennis star’s brother, Djordje Djokovic, described the judge’s ruling as a “great defeat for Australian authorities.”

But he said the family was still hearing that his brother might be detained, though he gave no details.

“This is definitely politics, all this was politics,” he added.

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