Novak Djokovic, the world number one tennis player, said in a statement on Sunday that he was disappointed with the decision to reject his visa to visit Australia, but that he would cooperate with authorities in his departure. The Serbian winner expressed his hope that attention will now shift back to tennis and the Australian Open Grand Slam, which begins on Monday in Melbourne. Djokovic had challenged Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to revoke his visa, claiming that his presence would foster anti-vaccination attitudes in the midst of Australia’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.
“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this,” the 34-year-old said in a statement. “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.”
Djokovic was allowed a medical exemption to compete in the Melbourne Park major, which he has won nine times, including the previous three editions, despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. After a rollercoaster 10 days that saw him held by police, released, and then detained again ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, his fate was finally decided.
Rafael Nadal, who shares 20 major wins with Djokovic, said “too many questions” about the Serb’s ambition to play the tournament remained unanswered, while other top players bemoaned how the drama has overshadowed the Slam.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” Djokovic said further. “I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament,” he added.