Djokovic leaving Australia after losing deportation appeal

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening after losing his final bid to avoid deportation and play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19. A court earlier unanimously dismissed the No. 1-ranked tennis player’s challenge to cancel his visa.

Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling but respected it.

A masked Djokovic was photographed in an Melbourne airport lounge with two government officials in black uniforms. He left on an Emirates flight to Dubai, the same United Arab Emirates city he flew to Australia from.

He has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, but this time won’t even get the chance to try.

“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he said in a statement.

Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus had been on him since his visa was first canceled on arrival at Mebourne’s airport on Jan. 6.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” he said.

The national federation that runs the tournament, Tennis Australia, said it respects the decision of the Federal Court. “We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all players the best of luck,” it said in a statement.

A deportation order also usually includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.

In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic said the hearing was “a farce with a lot of lies.”

“They think that they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, and they actually humiliated themselves. If you said that the one who was not vaccinated has no right to enter, Novak would not come or would be vaccinated,” Vucic told reporters.

He said he told Djokovic after talking to him “that we can’t wait to see him in Serbia, to return to his country, to come where he is always welcome.”

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