Novak's night of hell: Djokovic slept at airport after 6hr probe

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Jan 2022, 9:21AM
Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Photo / Getty Images.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Photo / Getty Images.

Novak's night of hell: Djokovic slept at airport after 6hr probe

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Jan 2022, 9:21AM

Novak Djokovic claims he was interrogated at Melbourne airport in the early hours of January 6 before his visa was cancelled. 

The 34-year-old Serbian tennis player, who earlier said he had received an exemption to play in the Australian Open, arrived in Australia after a 14-hour flight from Dubai on Thursday, where he was met with border force officials who held him overnight in a police-guarded room. 

Court documents lodged with the Federal Court have revealed a timeline of his ordeal, claiming the world No 1 was questioned from 12.21am to 12.41am on Thursday before he was left stranded. 

A few hours later, at about 4am, he was informed he didn't have appropriate evidence for his Covid-19 vaccination exemption and his visa would likely be cancelled. 

Djokovic then asked if he could have until 8am to have a rest and to contact his advisers, to which the Border Force official said, according to court documents: "That's absolutely fine, I have spoken with my supervisors and they're more than happy to allow you have to rest [sic]." 

Another conversation was held about 6am, Djokovic claims, where he was told he could rest until 8.30am. It was at this stage Djokovic went to sleep. 

His airport nap was short-lived. Djokovic claimed in the documents he was woken up a short time later by two supervisors who were pressuring him into accepting their decision to revoke his visa before he was able to talk to his legal team or Tennis Australia officials. 

He ultimately relented, and by 7.42am he was notified of the cancellation of his visa. Djokovic was later sent to a local hotel best known for immigrant detentions, where he remains. 

"Over several pages of transcript, the supervisor pressured Mr Djokovic to simply continue the interview immediately," Djokovic's lawyers wrote in their submission. 

"Mr Djokovic, having formed the view that '[they were] going to cancel [his] visa, it's obvious' relented, feeling he had no choice, and on the basis of an understanding based on what they had said to him that it was better for him if the interview was done right away. 

"When one talks in terms of procedural fairness or natural justice, the concern of the law is to avoid practical injustice. 

"Within statutory constraints, the Delegate was required to adopt a procedure that was reasonable in the circumstances to afford an opportunity to be heard to Mr Djokovic. 

"If the procedure adopted so constrained Mr Djokovic's opportunity to propound his case as to amount to practical injustice, that would amount to a denial of procedural fairness. 

"In an analogous way, Mr Djokovic sought until 8.30 to rest and to speak with his advisers. 

"The Delegate represented to Mr Djokovic that he could have that time. There was no cogent reason for the Delegate to depart from that representation – there was no prejudice to the Respondent in delay for a further few hours, Mr Djokovic's request was reasonable and based on cogent reasons, and the consequences of a possible cancellation decision were very serious. Yet the Delegate did depart from that representation." 

Elsewhere in the papers, which were submitted to court late on Saturday, it was revealed Djokovic tested positive to Covid-19 on December 16 via a PCR test at the Institute of Public Health of Serbia. 

The court documents stated Djokovic had been provided with a "medical exemption from Covid vaccination" on the grounds he had recently recovered from Covid. 

Djokovic's fate now lies in the courts, where his legal team will argue his case on Monday. 

Djokovic had been relying on a Tennis Australia exemption certificate issued under the guidance players did not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they could confirm they tested positive within the past six months.