PIERS Morgan has branded Novak Djokovic a “liar” after the anti-vaxx tennis star was booted out of Australia.
The World No 1 lost his final appeal against the cancellation of his visa and was today deported from the country.
His humiliating vaccine row had been rumbling on for almost two weeks after entering Oz with a “medical exemption”.
But a final decision was eventually made today which saw him on the next flight out – and telly icon Piers shared a celebratory tweet.
Alongside several applause emojis, he said: “Covid rule cheat, immigration form liar, & anti-vaxxer icon Novak Djokovic loses final appeal against deportation & will be thrown out of Australia without being able to compete in Aus Open. Good.”
Lawyers claimed the believed-to-be un-jabbed sportsman had become an “icon” for those against vaccination and posed a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian people.
The 34-year-old then boarded a mid-morning Emirates flight to Dubai after his plans to chase a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open were torpedoed.
He is one of just three players inside the ATP’s top 100 who have not been vaccinated.
In a statement, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” – but would not appeal again.
“I will now be taking some time to rest and recuperate before making any further comments,” he said.
ACE BOOTED OUT
“I am extremely disappointed with the court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
“I respect the court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past few weeks has been on me and I hope that we can now all focus on the game and tournament I love.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a statement welcoming the verdict, saying the decision “was made on health, safety and good order grounds” and “it was in the public interest” to kick him out.
He added that “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic,” and that his country had “achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world”.
Despite widespread jubilation, tennis governing body the ATP branded the move a “loss for the game” and called the saga “a regrettable series of events”.
Djokovic has not only lost the chance of defending his Australian Open title, but he also now faces a three-year ban from Australia due to his deportation.
It has also set tongues wagging that he may never play in Melbourne again.
I am extremely disappointed with the court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister’s decision to cancel my visa.
Djokovic met with immigration officials and Border Force for a secret showdown at an undisclosed location yesterday before government lawyers later argued he poses an “overwhelming risk” to the public.
They claim this was demonstrated by his irresponsible decision to attend work events while infected with Covid.
Djokovic met with at least 25 kids at three events in Serbia while positive for the virus, and faces jail for flouting isolation rules, it’s reported.
He claims he didn’t receive the results of his test until after the meetings.
“The Commonwealth should not be bound to suffer the presence of an alien for fear of what might happen if they were removed,” Aus lawyer Stephen Lloyd said last night.
“Rightly or wrongly, he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view.”
However, the ace’s legal team hit back – and rebuffed claims that he has a “well-known stance on vaccination”.
News from the courtroom:
- Three judges have unanimously decided Djokovic doesn’t have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s deportation order
- The tennis ace’s legal team failed in their bid to prove Mr Hawke acted irrationally or legally unreasonably
- Justice Allsop said he accepted Djokovic could be seen as “an iconic sports star that is setting an example that is not ideal to be followed” over his anti-vaxxer status
- Lawyers for the government argued the star poses an “overwhelming risk” to the Australian public after he met with Serbian children while infected with Covid
- It’s not yet known whether Djokovic will be banned from applying for an Australian visa for the next three years
Nick Wood, representing Djokovic, said comments he made about vaccines in April 2020 are not necessarily relevant – and he has not publicly aligned himself with either those in favour of jabs or those against.
The legal eagle said the star is “not an expert” and would do what’s best for his body, adding that the minister who ordered Djokovic out is “not permitted to cancel a visa based on an evidence-free figment of his imagination.”
The saga over Djokovic’s jab status began when his visa was revoked when he first landed in Aus.
The Serbian 20-time Grand Slam champ was given his marching orders following a six-hour stand-off at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.
He had initially been granted a vaccine exemption – his lawyers said, because he contracted Covid-19 in December – to compete before his visa was dramatically cancelled.
Djokovic was rushed to an immigration hotel, despite pleading to be moved to more elaborate digs with a tennis court or to have his private chef provide vegan meals – requests which were denied.
A judge then ordered his passport to be handed back – saying he was “agitated” about the case and asking: “What more could this man have done?”
However, in a twist, Djokovic was reportedly arrested as the government revoked his visa again.
His supporters were pepper-sprayed by cops in the street after Mr Hawke used his powers on “health and good order” grounds.
Djokovic’s legal team appealed the decision overnight but their pleas for him to remain Down Under were overruled.
‘NOT A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR FANS’
Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan unanimously decided Djokovic did not have grounds to dispute Hawke’s deportation order.
Justice Allsop earlier said he accepted Djokovic could be seen as “an iconic sports star that is setting an example that is not ideal to be followed”.
“If Mr Djokovic won the Open, as he has in the past, there is an example embedded in the minister’s reasoning that this is an example for young and not so young fans of tennis,” he said.
Government officials have not yet said whether they’ll take up their option to ban Djokovic from applying for a visa to enter the country again for the next three years.
The star has faced huge backlash from Australians, who have been split on the decision to detain him.
More than 83,000 people tuned in to the Federal Court livestream of the proceedings to watch the showdown, while his supporters gathered in the streets outside.
He has not openly spoken about his jab status, but has previously admitted he was “opposed” to vaccination.
He told reporters: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination.
“I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”
Timeline to deportation
Jan 4: Djokovic told fans on social media he was on his way to the Australian Open under a medical exemption, writing on Instagram: “I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!!”
Jan 5: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Djokovic he will be on the “next plane home” if his medical exemption is deemed insufficient
Jan 5: Djokovic’s visa is cancelled upon his arrival in Melbourne. The Australian Border Force announces that the player “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements for Australia”.
Jan 6: Djokovic is sent to the Park Hotel in Melbourne after being refused a visa. He launches an appeal, which is adjourned until January 10. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic says Djokovic is the victim of “persecution”.
Jan 9: Djokovic’s lawyers claim he was granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he recorded a positive Covid-19 test in Serbia on December 16. However, social media posts suggest he attended a number of social events in the days following his apparent diagnosis.
Jan 10: Djokovic’s visa cancellation is quashed by Judge Anthony Kelly, who orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half-an-hour.
Jan 12: Djokovic admits making an “error of judgement” by attending an interview with a French journalist while Covid positive. He adds that, although he attended a children’s tennis event the day after being tested, he did not receive notification of the positive test until after the event.
Jan 13: Djokovic is drawn to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
Jan 14: Immigration minister Minister Alex Hawke cancels Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying in a statement it was “on health and good order grounds”.
Jan 15: Djokovic’s lawyers have a minor win in court, with the judge agreeing to have the matter heard by a panel of three judges on Sunday – a decision fiercely opposed by the government
Jan 16: Djokovic LOSES his appeal and is told he will be deported.
Reporting by PA