Novak Djokovic has been cleared by a judge to remain in Australia, ending a five-day standoff between the government and the world’s top-ranked male tennis player over his COVID-19 vaccination status.
Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly Monday overruled the government’s decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa and ordered officials to return his passport and release him from immigration detention.
However, the Australian government said immediately after the judge’s ruling it could still revoke Djokovic’s visa.
The 34-year-old Djokovic arrived in Melbourne last Wednesday to begin preparations for the Australian Open, the first of tennis’s four major “Grand Slam” tournaments that begins January 17. He said he had received a medical exemption from two medical panels and Tennis Australia, the tournament’s organizer, from a government requirement that all visitors should be vaccinated against COVID-19. Djokovic, who has been openly skeptical of the vaccine, said he had recovered from a COVID-19 infection in December.
But the government rejected Djokovic’s exemption and revoked his visa amid a public uproar in Australia, which is battling with a huge spike in new coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant.
The ruling allows the Serbian to play for his 10th Australian Open men’s title and a 21st overall men’s Grand Slam win, which would break the tie he shares with his closest rivals, Rafeal Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.