Tennis star Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday after the Serbian athlete — who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and has become one of the most famous vaccine skeptics in the world — lost his last-ditch bid to stay in Australia and was deported following a ten-day saga. After a panel of Australian federal judges on Sunday upheld the decision by Australia’s immigration minister to cancel his visa, Djokovic said he would cooperate with authorities in arranging his departure from the country and confirmed he would not be playing in the Australian Open. Djokovic then left Australia on a flight for Dubai late Sunday night.
After entering the country on January 6, Djokovic had claimed he was in compliance with Australia’s strict coronavirus travel restrictions, citing a recent positive COVID test. Australian government officials disagreed, prompting a messy international controversy and legal back-and-forth. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke ultimately canceled Djokovic’s visa under his personal power, saying the athlete was a “talisman of the anti-vaccination sentiment.” It’s not clear if Djokovic, the world’s No. 1–ranked men’s tennis player, will be able to return for the Australian Open in 2023 or 2024.
While he was “extremely disappointed,” Djokovic 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” and added that he was “uncomfortable” that the focus has been on him since his visa was first canceled.
“I thank the court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue,” Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said.