The visa hearing for Novak Djokovic has been set for 9.30am Sunday (10.30pm Saturday UK time) at the Federal Court of Australia.
Djokovic’s lawyers argue his visa has not been cancelled because of the public health risk posed by the unvaccinated Serbian player, but because of how he may be perceived by anti-vaxxers in the country.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has himself welcomed the prospect of Djokovic’s deportation from Australia, and said: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
But Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has hit out at the Australian government, accusing it of “harassing” and “maltreating” Djokovic, and asking whether it is trying to score political points ahead of upcoming elections.
But he won a court appeal against the cancellation that allowed him to remain in the country.
At the time, the Australian government said it would continue to look at whether he could stay, a decision that was at the discretion of immigration minister Alex Hawke.
Mr Hawke announced on Friday that the Serbian’s visa had been cancelled again, this time on public health grounds.
At a court hearing, Djokovic’s lawyers asked for an injunction to block his removal from the country, saying the reasons behind Mr Hawke’s decision are “patently irrational”.
Djokovic’s lawyers had been pushing for a hearing to take place on Sunday, in the hope of a decision being made before the Australian Open begins.
Djokovic is due to play his first-round match against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.
Mr Hawke said on Friday: “Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” he said in a statement.
“The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Commenting on the decision, Mr Morrison said Australians have made “many sacrifices” during the pandemic.
“They rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” he added. “The pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.
“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic.”
There has been criticism of the way the Australian government has handled the situation but public opinion has been firmly in favour of Djokovic being sent home.
Australian number one Alex de Minaur said he has grown weary of the Djokovic saga overshadowing the Australian Open and wants the spotlight back on the tennis.
“I think first of all, this whole situation has taken a lot of spotlight away from us competitors,” the 32nd seed told reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
“It feels like it’s taking away from us competitors who just want to start. We’re just eager to go out and compete. The Australian Open is always an incredible event, my home slam, my favourite tournament.
“To be honest, I’m just ready to put all of this behind me and focus on playing my tennis matches, kind of let my tennis do the talking.”