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Tennis star Djokovic wins court battle to stay in Australia

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World tennis number one Novak Djokovic was released from Australian immigration detention on Monday after winning a court challenge to remain in the country to pursue his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the upcoming Australian Open, according to Reuters.

Judge Anthony Kelly ruled the federal government’s decision last week to revoke the Serbian tennis star’s visa amid a row over his medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements was “unreasonable” and ordered his release.

Lawyers for the federal government, however, indicated the fight may not be over, telling the court that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was reserving the right to exercise his personal power to again revoke Djokovic’s visa.

After confirming that such a step, if taken, would bar 34-year-old Djokovic from the country for three years, Kelly warned the government lawyers that “the stakes have now risen, rather than receded.”

Kelly also ordered the federal government to pay legal costs for Djokovic, who spent several days in an immigration detention hotel, noting that his lawyers argued his “personal and professional reputation and his economic interests may be directly affected”.

News of the ruling was greeted with noisy celebrations, drum beating and dancing by a group of around 50 supporters, many draped in the Serbian flag, outside the Melbourne court.

The Serbian player, a prominent coronavirus vaccine-skeptic, had been in immigration detention in a hotel since Thursday, when Australian authorities attempted to boot him out of the country due to issues with his visa and COVID vaccination status on arrival in Melbourne for the Australian Open.

Kelly earlier told the court it appeared Djokovic had sought and received the required medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination on the basis that he had contracted the virus last month. He had presented evidence of this before he travelled to Melbourne and when he landed on Wednesday evening.

The saga kicked off when Djokovic posted a photo of himself leaning on his luggage on Instagram last Tuesday, telling the world he was headed to Australia to compete in the Open with a vaccination exemption.