Novak Djokovic has won an appeal against deportation from Australia, with a judge ordering that he be released from hotel quarantine within 30 minutes.
Border officials previously ruled that the tennis star did not meet the criteria for an exemption to the requirement that all non-Australians be fully vaccinated against COVID.
Djokovic had spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne before the hearing got under way at around 10am local time.
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Judge Anthony Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels.
“The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Mr Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood.
The judge quashed the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, saying the player hadn’t been given enough time to respond fully after he was notified of the intent to cancel his visa.
A group of around 50 supporters, many draped in the Serbian flag, celebrated outside the Melbourne court.
However, it may not be the end of the row.
Sky reporter Nicole Johnston, outside the quarantine hotel, said the case may now go back to the immigration minister and the department for home affairs decide whether to reinstate the visa.
“Essentially the court found there was a failure in due process – that it wasn’t fair – so for now we wait to hear from the federal government,” said Johnston.
For now though, Djokovic will get his belongings and passport back as he leaves his isolation at the Park Hotel.
The Australian Open begins on 17 January, with the Serbian star bidding to become the most successful men’s player ever.
Djokovic’s case has caused a political row after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “rules are rules” and any passenger was responsible for meeting border regulations.
Mr Morrison was accused of taking advantage of the case to improve his popularity ahead of elections.
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Djokovic’s lawyers said the player should have been allowed to enter the country because he had recently had COVID and “was entitled to a medical exemption in accordance with Australian government rules”.
They filed papers that showed he tested positive last month and recovered.
They also showed the 34-year-old had received a letter from Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer on 30 December stating that he had been given an exemption on these grounds.
It said Djokovic’s first positive test was on 16 December and, on the date of issue, he “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours”.
Photos have emerged in the last few days of the world number one – without a mask – with young players the day after he’s said to have tested positive.
It is not clear if Djokovic knew the results of his test at the time.
On the day he tested positive – 16 December – he was also presented with a stamp by the Serbian postal service in Belgrade, an event he tweeted about the next day.
In the next tweet, on 4 January, he said he had “spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break” and he was now on his way “Down Under with an exemption permission”.
Djokovic has not disclosed his vaccination status, but has previously said he wouldn’t want to be compelled to get a jab to travel or play in competitions.
His case has polarised opinions, especially in Australia where he has won the tournament nine times.
After narrowly missing out on a calendar grand slam of the four major titles in 2021, he will be keen to attempt to go ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the winner of the most majors.
But the past few days have been far from ideal preparation, with his lawyers saying he was sleep-deprived and pressured by Australian officials to cancel his visa.
He is also said to have been temporarily unable to access the gluten-free meals and exercise equipment he requested.
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