Tennis star Djokovic is back at a boarding hotel in Australia one night before the hearing

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Novak Djokovic will spend Saturday night in immigration prison before the world’s top tennis player demands a court decision to stop his expulsion and keep alive his bid for a record-breaking 21st major title at the Australian Open.

Djokovic arrived at the Melbourne Park Hotel, the same immigration prison hotel where he was being held last week, just before 3.30pm (0430 GMT), according to a Reuters witness.

Dozens of refugee activists chanted “stop the torture … release them” as Djokovic and border guards drove into the hotel’s underground garage, which is also used to quarantine 33 asylum seekers and travelers.

A man cycling past the hotel shouted, “Go home, Novak!”

It will be a second stop in the custody of Djokovic, who spent his first four nights in Australia in a hotel jail before a judge released him on Monday after finding that a decision to cancel his visa on arrival had been unreasonable.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke decided to suspend the Serbian superstar’s visa because his presence could promote opposition to covid-19 vaccination in Australia, court documents released after a first federal court hearing on Saturday showed.

“While I … accept that Mr Djokovic poses a negligible individual risk of transmitting covid-19 to other persons, I still believe that his presence could pose a risk to the health of Australian society,” Hawke said in a letter to Djokovic and his legal team.

This explanation in Djokovic’s certificate is more detailed than the brief statement Hawke released on Friday, which said his decision was based on “health and law enforcement reasons”.

Judge David O’Callaghan set a hearing on Djokovic’s appeal at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday (2230 GMT on Saturday), with the question of whether it would be held before a single judge or a full court remains to be determined.

Djokovic’s lawyers said on Friday that they would argue that deportation would only increase the sense of anti-vaccine and would be as much a threat to disruption and public health as letting him stay and exempt him from Australia’s requirement that all visitors be vaccinated.

A court ruling on Friday night required the 34-year-old to surrender to immigration officials for an interview on Saturday morning, before being taken to his law firm for the preliminary hearing. After leaving his lawyers, he was to be taken into immigration custody.

The Border Force and the Office of the Minister of Immigration did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether Djokovic had attended the interview.

The government has said it will not deport Djokovic until his appeal has been heard. Djokovic wants to be able to defend his title in the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

Players get tired of fairy tales

The controversy has overshadowed the traditional structure of the Grand Slam event, and players were tired of the saga.

“Honestly, I’m a little tired of the situation because I just think it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis,” Spaniard Rafa Nadal, who shares 20 major titles with Djokovic, told reporters at Melbourne Park, where the event will take place. to be played.

The German Alexander Zverev, the third in the world, said that Djokovic had been treated unfairly and that the Serb could have been used as a political pawn by Australian authorities, something that Canberra has denied.

“This is obviously not a pleasant thing for everyone, especially for him. But do not question his legacy because of this,” Zverev said.

Djokovic’s medical exemption from vaccine requirements for playing Open sparked outrage in Australia, which has undergone some of the world’s toughest covid-19 locks and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated, but hospital stays continue to reach record levels.

With global scientists and decision-makers focused on vaccinating as many people as possible to end the pandemic, Djokovic’s refusal to get the shot has fueled the anti-vaccination movement, especially in his native Serbia and surrounding countries.

The controversy over the tennis player has become a political test post for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he prepares for an election in May.

His government has won support at home for its tough stance on border security during the pandemic, but it has faced criticism for its handling of Djokovic’s visa application.

Djokovic, who will play against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovi in ​​the first round of the Open, is chasing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. But instead of meeting Rod Laver Arena on Monday, he could be deported on a flight from Melbourne.

He has the opportunity to withdraw and leave Australia on his own.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” said Nadal, whom Djokovic considers his biggest rival on a tennis court.

“If he finally plays, OK. If he does not play, the Australian Open will be fantastic … with or without him.”

(REUTERS)