The grand slam kicks off in Melbourne on Monday without its men’s champion, who has been deported from Australia after an extraordinary 11-day saga amid protests from back home in Serbia that he’s been treated scandalously.
The nine-times champion Djokovic was expelled after his last-minute challenge to a decision to cancel his visa failed on Sunday, a three-judge panel of the Federal Court ruling unanimously against him.
The decision came after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa for a second time on Friday, citing a risk to public health and the chance the unvaccinated star’s presence in Australia could excite anti-vaccination sentiment.
Djokovic had been scheduled to begin his defence against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
But after five nights in a detention hotel, he wasted no time leaving and boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai that left at 10.30pm AEDT.
It still wasn’t clear where Djokovic’s ultimate destination was but there was an outpouring of anger and support in Serbia, where the country’s president Aleksandar Vukic urged him to come home and the prime minister Ana Brnabic called his treatment “scandalous”.
“We had hoped that justice would prevail. That ‘public interest’ would not serve as a pretext for a decision that was eventually made,” Djokovic’s family said, adding that politics had won over sport.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling,” the 34-year-old Djokovic himself said in a statement.
“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.”
The blame game is set to intensify now that his bid to play in the Open is officially over, with Djokovic also facing the prospect of losing his cherished world No.1 ranking to either Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev should one of them annex his title.
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