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Djokovic kept at airport for eight hours despite vaccine exemption

Australian border agents have held tennis superstar Novak Djokovic for eight hours at Melbourne airport, mostly incommunicado, before cancelling his visa and sending him to a detention centre.

Djokovic’s lawyers also argued on Saturday that the tennis star was given an Australian Open Covid-19 vaccine exemption for testing positive on December 16, which should have qualified him for entry.

In a filing to the federal court seeking to overturn his entry visa cancellation his lawyers said that the “date of the first positive Covid PCR test was recorded on 16 December 2021”.

The Belgrade tennis federation, in a Facebook post after the December 17 ceremony, reported that Djokovic had handed over cups and awards to best young players in 2021.

READ MORE: Djokovic Covid-jab exemption sparks anger and confusion

Deportation court hearing

Australian border agents tore up Djokovic’s entry visa for failing to meet the country’s tough Covid-19 vaccine requirements when he landed in Melbourne on Wednesday.

The tennis star has been held since Thursday morning in a Melbourne detention centre “notwithstanding his requests to be moved” to another facility to train for the Australian Open, they added.

In an internal video leaked Saturday, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said his organisation had done “everything they possibly could”. 

A court hearing on his bid to stave off deportation was set for Monday, a week before the season’s first major tennis tournament is set to begin.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic threw the weight of her government behind national Djokovic on Saturday, saying it stood ready to provide all necessary guarantees to allow the tennis champion to enter Australia.

Serbia slams Australia’s ‘maltreatment’ of Novak Djokovic

Support vigil

The defending Australian Open champion is waiting it out in Melbourne at a secure hotel used by immigration officials to house asylum seekers and refugees.

A small group of supporters of Djokovic continued their vigil on Saturday outside the Melbourne hotel.

Djokovic, an outspoken vaccine sceptic, thanked fans for their support on Instagram: “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.” 

Although Djokovic has won a legal reprieve from deportation, it is unclear whether he will be able to play in the January 17-30 tournament.

READ MORE: Djokovic in deportation limbo after Australia court adjourns visa appeal

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