By Ian Ransom and Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic waited on Friday to hear whether the Australian government would cancel his visa for the second time as he aims for a record 21st major tennis title at the Australian Open from Monday.
Djokovic, the defending champion, was included in Thursday’s draw as the top seed and was set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in his opener, likely on Monday or Tuesday.
A decision to revoke his visa again could spark a second court battle for the Serbian tennis star, after a court overturned an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
Melbourne’s The Age newspaper quoted a source from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party as saying the government was “strongly inclined” to revoke the visa again.
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Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, fueled widespread anger in Australia when he announced last week that he was traveling to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption from requirements for visitors to be vaccinated against the COVID-19.
Australia has suffered some of the longest lockdowns in the world, has a 90 per cent vaccination rate among adults and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases in the past two weeks.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told morning television on Friday that visa decisions lay with the country’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, but the policy parameters of the government as a whole were “clear”.
“That is, people entering Australia who are not Australian citizens should be vaccinated with a double dose unless they have a clear and valid medical exemption against it,” he said. he said on Channel 9’s Today Show.
An online poll by media group News Corp found 83 per cent in favor of the government trying to deport the tennis star.
However, fans, including many Serbian Australians, gave him vocal support during his detention, anti-vaxxers hailed him as a hero and his family described him as a champion of individual rights.
Melbourne’s committee, which represents business and business leaders, says the city’s reputation for hosting events has been damaged by the dispute.
“The Djokovic visa and vaccination saga has had a bad image from everyone involved, which is a tragedy given the excellence of our infrastructure and tournament planning,” the committee’s chief executive said. , Martine Letts, at The Age.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul, Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Writing by Lincoln Feast and Richard Pullin; Editing by Michael Perry)
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