Novak Djokovic was sleep-deprived and pressured to cancel his visa, court


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Novak Djokovic was sleep-deprived and pressured by Australian officials to cancel his visa after being detained at Melbourne airport, his legal team have argued.

Representatives for the world’s top-ranked tennis player also claim he was given a medical exemption after testing positive for COVID-19 on 16 December.

The tennis star touched down in the country late on Wednesday night, ahead of the start of the Australian Open.

However, he is now embroiled in a row over whether he is exempt from the country’s COVID vaccination rules, and is facing deportation if his appeal is unsuccessful.

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Interrogated for six hours

After travelling for 25 hours, Djokovic’s lawyers claim he was interrogated for six hours at the airport before being allowed to go somewhere to sleep – only to be woken by officials half an hour later and pressured into making a decision on cancelling his visa.

Newly released court documents show he believed his exemption was “consistent with the recommendations of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation”.

At the start of the interview, just after midnight, an official told him previous infection did not mean he qualified for an exemption.

He responded: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but that’s not true.”

He added: “I explained that I had been recently infected with COVID in December 2021 and on this basis I was entitled to a medical exemption in accordance with Australian government rules and guidance.

A Novak Djokovic fan outside the detention hotel where he is staying in Melbourne
A Djokovic fan outside the detention hotel where he is staying in Melbourne

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“I further explained that my medical exemption had been granted by the Independent Expert Medical Review Panel, that I had previously provided all relevant medical reports to TA, including my COVIDPCR test results, and that accordingly the visa should not be cancelled.”

A timeline of Djokovic’s detention

00:21 – 00:51am – Djokovic begins to be interviewed by officials.

4:11am – Officials give notice to cancel Djokovic’s visa, and give him 20 minutes to give “any further explanation”. Djokovic asks to wait until 8am so he can call Tennis Australia to “figure this out”.

5:20am – Officials say they will give him time to rest, until around 8am – 8:30am. The interview is suspended.

5:22 – 6:07am – In this time Djokovic waits on a sofa outside the interview room for a bed to be prepared. He was eventually taken to a room at 5:30am, but was awoken “around 6am” and “pressured” to continue the interview immediately.

7:42am – His visa is officially cancelled.

The documents claim he had received “a letter from the…

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