World number one Novak Djokovic faces being deported from Australia after having his visa rejected.
The tennis star arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday to defend his Australian Open title.
However, his arrival prompted anger among many Australians after he was given special permission to go into the country and play despite not having any Covid vaccinations.
The Serbian was delayed when arriving in the country while officials examined his case.
It is understood the 20-time grand slam winner was questioned by Australian immigration officials in a room at Melbourne Airport overnight after he landed in the country.
Now Australian newspaper The Age is reporting his visa has been rejected after a 12-hour standoff and he will be deported from the country on Thursday.
The reports say Djokovic’s lawyers are in the process of challenging the decision.
‘No one is above these rules’
Before departing for Australia, Djokovic said he had a medical exemption from Covid vaccination rules to compete in the tournament.
However, the decision from tournament organisers Tennis Australia to grant him permission sparked outrage in Melbourne, which has faced numerous lockdowns through the pandemic.
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
Confusion surrounded the situation after the Victorian government said it would not support the tennis star’s visa application.
And the sportsman was held in immigration detention while border officials examined his paperwork.
Shortly before 10pm UK time on Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.
“Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from Covid, we are continuing to be vigilant.”
An Australian Border Force statement read: “The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our laws and entry requirements.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
“The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.
“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.
“The ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone.”
What happens to Djokovic now?
It is not known whether Djokovic will be placed into government accommodation or hotel quarantine while awaiting deportation.
The Age has reported a Tennis Australia source describing the visa rejection as a “publicity stunt” that only targeted him and not other players with the same medical exemption.
The same newspaper also reported the issue with Djokovic’s attempt to enter Australia was due to whether his documentation was adequate enough to prove his reason for exemption.
It is suspected that his argument for being able to enter Australia is due to him having had Covid within the last six months.
Djokovic’s father Srdjan Djokovic told Russian new agency Sputnik that he had “no idea” what was happening to his son.
He said: “They are holding my son in captivity for five hours.
“This is a fight for the liberal world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world.”