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Djokovic three-year visa ban could end early: Australia PM

Image source, Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to return to the country sooner than initially anticipated.

The men’s tennis world number one was deported on Sunday after losing a visa battle to remain in Australia.

Under Australia’s immigration laws, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years.

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However, Mr Morrison said Djokovic could be allowed entry into Australia sooner under the “right circumstances.”

This would potentially allow him to take part in the Australian Open next year,

The tournament, which has been overshadowed by the unvaccinated player’s visa troubles, began in Melbourne on Monday with Germany’s Tatjana Maria taking on Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

Djokovic had also originally been scheduled to play on Monday.

Australian law provides for compelling or compassionate reasons for the three-year visa ban to be waived. If the exemption is granted, it means Djokovic could compete in the next Australian Open.

“I’m not going to pre-condition any of that or say anything that would not enable the (Immigration) minister to make the various calls he has to make,” Mr Morrison told Australian radio station 2GB earlier on Monday morning.

“(The ban) does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time.”

Djokovic was forced to leave the country after judges upheld a decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel his visa on grounds of “health and good order.’

The decision marked the end of a tumultuous 10-day saga where the Serb fought to stay to defend his title in the Australian Open.

Djokovic had been originally granted a medical exemption to enter Australia by two different independent health panels – one commissioned by Tennis Australia, the other by the state government of Victoria – after testing positive for coronavirus in mid-December.

But the player’s attempt to enter the country without being vaccinated stoked public anger in Australia.

The Australian Border Force then detained him on 5 January for not meeting federal coronavirus requirements, and his visa was revoked.

A judge overturned that decision last Monday, but the government stepped in several days later to revoke the visa again, on the grounds of public interest.

Judges later upheld the government’s decision, leaving the Serb with no other option but to leave the country.

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