Tennis star Djokovic lands in Dubai after Australia deportation

3 months ago 40

DUBAI: Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic landed in Dubai on Monday (Jan 17) after his sensational deportation from Australia over his coronavirus vaccination status put his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title on hold.

As the Australian Open got under way in Melbourne, the men's defending champion stepped off an Emirates plane carrying two bags and wearing a mask, his final destination unknown.

It follows a protracted and high-stakes legal battle between the unvaccinated Djokovic and the Australian authorities that polarised opinion and damaged reputations on both sides.

Djokovic said he was "extremely disappointed" after a Federal Court unanimously upheld the cancellation of his visa on public order grounds.

The humbled star boarded a flight from Melbourne's Tullamarine airport for Dubai late Sunday, accompanied by a retinue of aides and officials.

Emirates flight EK409 took off at 10.51 local time, according to an AFP reporter on board, and landed before dawn in Dubai.

Twice in the last 11 days Australia's government had ripped up Djokovic's visa and placed him in immigration detention - saying the unvaccinated star's presence could fuel anti-vaccine sentiment amid a tidal wave of Omicron cases.

Twice the Serbian star fought the decision in court, winning one round but losing Sunday's decider.

With a few dry words, the chief justice of Australia's Federal Court, James Allsop, ended a week of legal high drama that was followed around the world.

"The orders of the court are that the amended application be dismissed with costs," Allsop said.

With little chance for appeal, Djokovic acknowledged the game was up, and he would not be gracing Melbourne Park this year.

"I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open," he said, on the eve of a tournament that he has dominated for a decade, winning a record nine titles.

"I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love."

But the controversy looks set to rumble on, with Djokovic's image seriously tarnished and Australia feeding a growing reputation for being hostile to visitors.

"This cancellation decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison said hailing the court verdict.

"I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe."

"LOSS FOR THE GAME"

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