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    How the ‘Djokovic Affair’ Finally Came to an End

    Novak Djokovic lost to a government with powerful laws, determined to make an example out of him.SYDNEY, Australia — The day before the Australian Open was set to begin, Novak Djokovic, possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, ran up against a group of determined opponents that no amount of talent, training, money or willpower could overcome.He lost his final bid to stay in Australia on Sunday when a three-judge panel upheld the government’s decision to cancel his visa.More broadly, he lost to a government determined to make him a symbol of unvaccinated celebrity entitlement; to an immigration law that gives godlike authority to border enforcement; and to a public outcry, in a nation of rule-followers, over what was widely seen as Mr. Djokovic’s reckless disregard for others, after he said he had tested positive for Covid last month and met with two journalists anyway.“At this point, it’s about social norms and enforcing those norms to continue to get people to move in the same direction to overcome this pandemic,” said Brock Bastian, a social psychology professor at the University of Melbourne. “In this culture, in this country, a sense of suddenly upending those norms has a great cost politically and socially.”Only in the third exasperating year of a pandemic could the vaccination status of one individual be invested with so much meaning. For more than a week, the world gawked at a conflict centered on a controversial racket-swinger, filled with legal minutiae and dramatic ups and downs.Supporters of Novak Djokovic listened to court proceedings on Sunday outside the Australian Federal Court in Melbourne.Alana Holmberg for The New York TimesOn Sunday morning in Australia, more than 84,000 people watched the livestream of the hearing in a federal court, many of them presumably tuning in from other countries.What they witnessed was the saga’s bizarre final court scene: a six-panel video conference with lengthy arguments, in distant rooms of blond wood, about whether the immigration minister had acted rationally in exercising his power to detain and deport.The chief justice, James Allsop, announced the decision just before 6 p.m., after explaining that the court was not ruling on the merits of Mr. Djokovic’s stance, or on whether the government was correct in arguing that he might influence others to resist vaccination or defy public health orders. Rather, the court simply found that the immigration minister was within his rights to cancel the tennis star’s visa for a second time based on that possibility.Just a few days earlier, Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers had won a reprieve from his first visa cancellation, hours after his arrival on Jan. 5 at Melbourne’s airport. As of Friday morning, he seemed to be on his way to competing for a 10th Australian Open title and a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam. But that initial case had never reached beyond procedure, focusing on how Mr. Djokovic was treated at the airport as border officials had held him overnight.In the second round, his lawyers argued that the government had used faulty logic to insist their client’s presence would energize anti-vaccination groups, making him a threat to public health. In fact, they argued, anti-vaccine sentiment would be aggravated by his removal, citing protests that followed his first visa cancellation.“The minister is grasping for straws,” said Nicholas Wood, one of Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers. The alternative scenario — that deportation would empower anti-vaxxers — “was not considered,” he maintained.Journalists outside the offices of Mr. Djokovic’s legal team on Saturday. For more than a week, the world gawked at a conflict filled with legal minutiae and dramatic ups and downs.Loren Elliott/ReutersMr. Wood also disputed the government’s claim that Mr. Djokovic, 34, was a well-known promoter of vaccine opposition. The only comments cited in the government’s court filing, he said, came from April 2020, when vaccines had not yet been developed.Ever since then, his lawyers added, Mr. Djokovic had been careful to say very little about his vaccination status, which he confirmed only in his paperwork for Australia’s medical exemption.“There was no evidence before the minister that Mr. Djokovic has ever urged any others not to be vaccinated,” they wrote in a court filing before Sunday’s hearing. “Indeed, if anything, Mr. Djokovic’s conduct over time reveals a zealous protection of his own privacy rather than any advocacy.”The case, though, ultimately turned on the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, and his personal views. Justice Allsop pointed out in court that Australian immigration law provided a broad mandate: evidence can simply include the “perception and common sense” of the decision maker.Stephen Lloyd, arguing for the government, told the court it was perfectly reasonable for the immigration minister to be concerned about the influence of a “high-profile unvaccinated individual” who could have been vaccinated by now, but had not done so.He added that the concern about Mr. Djokovic’s impact went beyond vaccination, noting that Mr. Djokovic had not isolated after he said he tested positive for Covid in mid-December, meeting instead with two journalists in Belgrade. The government, Mr. Lloyd said, was worried that Australians would emulate his disregard for the standard rules of Covid safety if he were allowed to stay.Mr. Djokovic training at Melbourne Park on Friday. Many Australians believe he never should have been allowed to come without being vaccinated.Daniel Pockett/Getty Images“His connection to a cause whether he wants it or not is still present,” Mr. Lloyd said. “And his presence in Australia was seen to pose an overwhelming risk, and that’s what motivated the minister.”The court sided with the government, announcing its decision without immediately detailing its reasoning.The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 5A vaccine exemption question. More

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    As the Australian Open Nears, There Seems to Be Only One Story

    With just days to go before the start of the tournament, some players felt that the Novak Djokovic situation was overshadowing everything else.MELBOURNE, Australia — One by one, some of the world’s greatest tennis players took off their masks on Saturday for a day of news conferences, but they did not necessarily let their guards down.It is a delicate situation, l’affaire Novak Djokovic. A fluid situation, too, with a federal court hearing scheduled for Sunday to try to determine whether the world’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player will have his visa restored and be allowed to defend his Australian Open title, despite not having been vaccinated against the coronavirus.On Saturday, as the cameras rolled and Djokovic returned to detention at the Park Hotel, Media Day went on without the reigning champion at Melbourne Park. (Normally, he would have been included in the event — where players were alone on the dais and members of the news media were socially distanced — but Djokovic was not interviewed on Saturday given the situation.)But he was still present — his case a feature of nearly every interview, as his fellow athletes played the question-and-answer game before the start of the Australian Open on Monday (with or without Djokovic).Naomi Osaka, the Japanese star who has often been one of the sport’s most outspoken players on social issues, was more circumspect this time, saying the decision was ultimately up to the government and not to tennis players, but suggesting that she understood how the scrutiny felt.“I know what it’s like to kind of be in his situation in a place that you’re getting asked about that person, to just see comments from other players,” she said. “It’s not the greatest thing. Just trying to keep it positive.”“I know what it’s like to kind of be in his situation,” Naomi Osaka, who has often been one of the sport’s most outspoken players on social issues, said of Djokovic.Diego Fedele/EPA, via ShutterstockBut Rafael Nadal, one of Djokovic’s longtime rivals, was willing to play closer to the lines.“I tell you one thing,” Nadal said. “It’s very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt. But there is no one player in history that’s more important than the event, no? The player stays and then goes, and other players are coming.“Even Roger, Novak, myself, Bjorn Borg, who was amazing at his times, tennis keeps going,” he said, referring to Roger Federer. “Australian Open is more important than any player. If he’s playing finally, OK. If he’s not playing, the Australian Open will be a great Australian Open.”Some players had surely prepared for the Djokovic question, talking over the issue with their agents and entourages to try to get their messaging right. But Nadal’s body language seemed as spontaneous as his freewheeling English on Saturday, full of gesticulations as he searched for the right words in his second language.I asked him what lessons might be drawn from the Djokovic mess (I didn’t call it a mess).Though Nadal said it had no effect on his personal preparation, he said things had gone too far, dominating the headlines and obscuring the early-season results. Other players shared that sentiment, including Alex de Minaur of Australia, Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain and Emma Raducanu, the thoughtful British teenager who was last year’s shock United States Open champion.“I feel that the situation has taken away a little bit from the great tennis being played over the summer,” Raducanu said, referring to the Australian summer.She pointed to the feel-good story of Andy Murray, who made it into the final in Sydney at age 34: his first tour final since 2019, and all the more remarkable because he now has an artificial hip. Raducanu also could have mentioned Nadal, who returned after chronic foot problems and his latest extended break to win the singles title last Sunday at a preliminary ATP 250 event in Melbourne.Rafael Nadal practicing on Saturday. “There is no one player in history that’s more important than the event, no?” he said, admitting he was tired of the Djokovic drama.Quinn Rooney/Getty Images“Honestly I’m a little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis,” Nadal said of Djokovic’s case.In truth, there has been no shortage of pretournament distractions through the years in Melbourne.Reports of widespread match-fixing dominated the run-up to the 2016 tournament. Bush fires obscured much of the tennis in 2020, as did the pandemic quarantine restrictions in 2021, which reduced some players to hitting balls against walls and mattresses in their hotel rooms to try to maintain some sort of rhythm (and sanity).But what separates 2022 from its predecessors is that the focus is on the fate of a single player, and not just any player. Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion, in his record 355th week as No. 1 and increasingly the consensus pick as the greatest men’s player of this golden era, despite still being tied with Nadal and Federer at 20 Grand Slam singles titles.The French Open has belonged to Nadal — he has won an astounding 13 titles on the red clay in Paris — but the Australian Open has been Djokovic’s domain, and it will be interesting many years from now to see what effect the pandemic standoff in Melbourne has on his legacy, down under and beyond.Nick Kyrgios, a young star who was not at the news conference because he is isolating in Sydney after testing positive for the coronavirus, offered support for Djokovic on Saturday in the podcast “No Boundaries.”“We’re treating him like he’s a weapon of mass destruction at the moment; he’s literally here to play tennis,” Kyrgios said, suggesting that Australians were using Djokovic as a punching bag to vent their frustrations over all of their pandemic privations.“As a human, he’s obviously feeling quite alienated,” said Kyrgios, who said Djokovic had reached out to him via social media to thank him for the support. “It’s a dangerous place to be when you feel like the world is against you, and you can’t do anything right.”Alexander Zverev, another young star who is close to Djokovic, argued on Saturday against reading too much into the current drama.“He still won 20 Grand Slams. He still has the most weeks at No. 1. He still has the most Masters Series,” Zverev said. “Still for me one of the greatest players of all time. I mean, this is obviously not a nice thing for everyone, for him especially. But don’t question his legacy because of this.”Legacies are, of course, not just about results. They are also about the intangibles: the memories and the delight that fans hold close after years of following a champion.A mural depicting Djokovic in Belgrade, Serbia, where the tennis star is a national hero.Oliver Bunic/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesDjokovic is a complex, often contradictory figure who can be both self-interested and magnanimous, devoting, for example, considerable time and energy to promoting the cause of lower-ranked players and to helping support athletes from Serbia and the wider Balkan region. The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 4A vaccine exemption question. More

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    Novak Djokovic, a Master on the Court, Keeps Making Errors Off It

    Djokovic, the Serbian tennis star, is at the center of some of the most divisive debates of the pandemic: Individual versus community, science versus quackery.In April 2020, with the pro tennis tour suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Novak Djokovic took part in a Facebook Live chat with some fellow Serbian athletes. During their conversation, Djokovic, famous for his punishing training regimen, abstemious diet and fondness for New Age beliefs, said he was “opposed to vaccination” and “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision,” he said.More than a year and a half later, Djokovic’s decision to seek a medical exemption to the Australian Open’s vaccine requirement has become a debacle for tennis — and one of the most bizarre episodes yet served up by the pandemic. Djokovic, 34, has done potentially irreparable harm to his own image. It is a bitter twist for a player who has long craved the adoration lavished on his chief rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and it is a sad coda to what is widely considered the greatest era in the history of men’s tennis.Djokovic arrived in Australia aiming to notch a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, which would put him one ahead of Federer and Nadal and strengthen his claim to being the most accomplished men’s player of all time. Instead, he now finds himself at the center of a global controversy that turns on some of the most divisive issues raised by the pandemic, in particular the question of individual freedom versus collective responsibility.Djokovic’s refusal to capitulate to an Australian government that has sought to bar him “in the public interest” because he is unvaccinated has made him a martyr in the eyes of some right-wing populists and those who oppose vaccines, and has elicited an outpouring of rage in Serbia.While Djokovic was sequestered in a Melbourne hotel room awaiting a court hearing on his entering the country, Nigel Farage, the far-right British politician and media figure who spearheaded the Brexit campaign, was in Belgrade, Serbia, expressing solidarity with the tennis star’s family. Djokovic’s father compared his son to Jesus Christ and Spartacus and hailed him as “the leader of the free world.” In Melbourne, a raucous crowd of Djokovic supporters chanted “Novak” and clashed with the police.Fans outside the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne on Monday showed their support for Djokovic in his visa legal battle.Sandra Sanders/ReutersAll of this is a strange turn of events for an athlete who has often been accused of trying too hard to win the world’s affection and who commands enormous respect within his sport, and not just because he has done so much winning. He’s a popular figure in the locker room, where he is seen as a strong advocate for players who are struggling financially: In 2020, he co-founded a players’ association with the stated goal of making tennis more remunerative for those down the ranks, though it’s unclear what that group has accomplished since. Djokovic also has distinguished himself with his philanthropy and with the graciousness he has shown Federer and Nadal. (“He’s a magnificent champion,” Djokovic said of Federer after beating him at Wimbledon in 2014.)In person, he is affable and engaging, with a keen interest in life beyond the baseline and a palpable sense of gratitude for his good fortune. Djokovic grew up during the Balkan wars of the 1990s — he was in Belgrade when NATO forces bombed Serbia and spent many nights huddled in the basement of his grandfather’s apartment building.Djokovic has said that the experience helped harden him into the champion he became. But it perhaps also bred a sense of imperviousness that has now led him astray.This standoff in Australia has also put a spotlight on some of the more troubling aspects of Djokovic’s public persona. He has long been a spiritual dabbler, with a weakness for what some regard as quackery. A few years ago, when Djokovic was mired in a slump, there was concern he had fallen under the sway of a Spanish tennis coach named Pepe Imaz, whose training philosophy, called Amor y Paz, or Love and Peace, emphasized meditation and group hugs. (“Human beings have infinite capacities and skills, the problem is that our mind limits us,” Imaz said on his website. “Telepathy, telekinesis, and many more things are all possible.”) In a video on YouTube, Djokovic is shown onstage with Imaz talking about the “need to be able to look inwards and to establish this connection with a divine light.”Some have questioned Djokovic’s relationship with Pepe Imaz, a Spanish tennis coach who emphasizes meditation and group hugs in his training philosophy.Gtres/Via ReutersWhen the tennis tour was on hiatus during the spring of 2020, Djokovic did several Instagram chats with the wellness guru Chervin Jafarieh. During one of their conversations, Djokovic claimed that the mind could purify water.“I know some people that, through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they managed to turn the most toxic food, or maybe the most polluted water, into the most healing water, because the water reacts,” he said. “Scientists have proven that in experiment, that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what has been said.” (“The people of Flint, Michigan, would love to hear that news,” the tennis commentator Mary Carillo replied.)It was during this same period that Djokovic revealed on Facebook Live his opposition to vaccines and vaccine mandates. A few months later, he hosted an exhibition tour in the Balkans that became a superspreader event. Djokovic and his wife were among those who tested positive for the coronavirus. In the press and in tennis circles, Djokovic was pilloried for staging matches — with fans in attendance — during a public health crisis. But it was nothing compared to the opprobrium he has faced this month, particularly in Australia, where the public is chafing under Covid restrictions, and the Djokovic fight is playing out against the backdrop of an upcoming national election.Back in Serbia, however, Djokovic is seen as a victim who is being victimized because he is Serbian. “They are stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people,” Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, told reporters. The Serbian foreign ministry put out a statement saying that the Serbian public “has a strong impression” that Djokovic was “lured to travel to Australia in order to be humiliated” and that it was feeling “understandable indignation.”The Djokovic flap has come at a time of resurgent Serbian nationalism in Bosnia, and it has also revived interest in Djokovic’s political views. On a visit to Bosnia last September, he was photographed with the former commander of a paramilitary group that was implicated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. He was also videotaped singing at a wedding with Milorad Dodik, the hard-line Serbian nationalist whose separatist rhetoric is raising fears that Bosnia might again fall into conflict.A mural dedicated to Djokovic, inscribed with the words “With faith in God,” in the Banjica area of Belgrade.Marko Risovic for The New York TimesDjokovic has made comments over the years that suggested he was at least sympathetic to Serbian nationalism. In a speech in 2008, he said that Kosovo belonged to Serbia after it declared independence. On the other hand, he’s coached by a Croat, the former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, and is seen by many in the Balkans as a conciliatory figure. People around Djokovic believe that he is not as popular as Federer and Nadal in part because he comes from a small country with a bad reputation. But that’s not necessarily an expression of Serbian nationalism, and there’s likely some truth to it.The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 4A vaccine exemption question. More

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    Novak Djokovic's Legal Options Are Narrow

    Novak Djokovic’s lawyers went to court on Saturday morning to challenge the Australian immigration minister’s decision to cancel his visa again, but experts said that he would find it much more difficult than his first court challenge.During a brief hearing Saturday, Justice David O’Callaghan of the Federal Court of Australia said a full hearing on Djokovic’s appeal would be held on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. He granted the Djokovic legal team’s request that a full panel of judges hear the case rather than a single judge, which means the court’s decision on the matter cannot be appealed. A lawyer for the immigration minister had opposed that request.If Djokovic doesn’t want to simply comply with the cancellation and leave the country, he will need to apply for a court injunction to stop the Australian authorities from deporting him while his lawyers file a challenge, according to Mary Anne Kenny, an associate professor of law at Murdoch University.That would allow him to stay in the country, but he would most likely be held in immigration detention, where he was kept for five days before his first court challenge and where he is being held until the hearing on Sunday.He could, however, apply to the government for a bridging visa to let him stay out of immigration detention and continue to play tennis. But according to Daniel Estrin, an immigration lawyer, Djokovic is unlikely to be granted such a visa because he would have to abide by the condition that he cannot work. His participation in the Australian Open which begins on Monday, then, would disqualify him.But because the discretionary powers of the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, are so broad, Estrin and Kenny said Djokovic would find it significantly more difficult than his first appeal.The minister just needed to demonstrate that Djokovic might be a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community, Estrin said. That is a very low threshold — “anyone might be a risk to the Australian community if you look at it very broadly” — making it extremely difficult for Djokovic to argue his case on substance, he added.Instead, Djokovic would need to prove that Hawke made an “jurisdictional error,” or applied the law wrong, Estrin said — a much higher legal threshold.Djokovic’s lawyers will not be allowed to replead his case or argue that he should have been allowed into Australia, Estrin said, meaning that, as in his first appeal, he would have to succeed on procedural grounds.“The court doesn’t look at whether the minister made the right decision,” Estrin said. “The court will only look at whether the minister committed some error of law.” More

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    Novak Djokovic’s Fight to Stay in Australia Lives Another Day

    A federal court judge scheduled a Sunday hearing to address the unvaccinated tennis star’s Australian visa revocation. The Australian Open begins on Monday.Novak Djokovic, the top men’s tennis player in the world, was detained by border authorities in Australia, on Saturday, the latest turn in a legal dispute over his travel visa that has drawn interest around the world and inflamed tensions during a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.The Australian minister for immigration revoked Djokovic’s travel visa for the second time on Friday because of concerns that Djokovic had violated the country’s rules intended to limit the spread of the virus, arguing that his high-profile status could harm the nation’s battle against the coronavirus.The matter could be resolved in a courtroom showdown Sunday at 9:30 a.m. local time. If the decision to cancel the visa is upheld, Djokovic, 34, could be forced out of the Australian Open tennis tournament and deported, a stunning development should it unfold that way. Then again, if the court rules in favor of Djokovic and allows him to remain, that would be equally shocking to many people who feel the player has already received preferential treatment.Both sides are expected to submit legal papers laying out their arguments to the court on Saturday after Djokovic was ordered to attend the hearing remotely by video from his attorney’s offices.Djokovic’s legal team asked that a full panel of judges hear the case rather than a single judge, which would mean the court’s decision on the matter could not be appealed. Justice David O’Callaghan said he would inform the parties later on Saturday of his decision on that question.Djokovic was appealing the most recent ruling in a case that has highlighted the global challenge of balancing the fight against the coronavirus and a return to so-called normal life, amid a swirl of political ramifications.The matter has produced outrage in Australia and beyond. Djokovic, who refuses to be vaccinated, has long held unorthodox and unscientific views of health. Many see the visa controversy as his devious attempt to leverage his status as an elite sports star to flout rules followed by ordinary Australians and others who travel there. The law states that anyone entering the country is required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus unless they have a medical exemption.In Serbia, Djokovic’s home country, and elsewhere, the ongoing incident is seen by some as an unfair attempt to prevent him from winning a record 21st Grand Slam by defending his title at the Australian Open, which begins Monday. Earlier in the week, his supporters clashed with police in Melbourne.In a statement explaining why he revoked Djokovic’s visa a second time, Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration, argued that if Djokovic were allowed to remain in Australia and play, the influential tennis star could harm efforts to combat the virus. The government has conceded that Djokovic poses no imminent threat to spread the disease. It is more about the example it would set by allowing him to stay.“Given Mr. Djokovic’s high-profile status and position as a role model in the sporting and broader community,” Hawke said in a statement, “his ongoing presence in Australia may foster similar disregard for the precautionary requirements following receipt of a positive Covid-19 test in Australia.”Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the government unfairly based their decision to revoke his visa again on the premise that Djokovic would engender anti-vaccine sentiments and not on the rule of law.All of it comes during a surge in coronavirus cases globally, and particularly in Australia, which has endured long lockdowns and restrictions. Initially, sentiment in Australia seemed to support Djokovic because he came to Melbourne under the impression that he had a legal exemption. But as more information emerged, including false statements and Djokovic’s cavalier approach after he tested positive in December, the mood has largely turned against him.Djokovic was initially given the an exemption to the federal requirement that everyone entering Australia be vaccinated against the coronavirus so that he could play in the Australian Open. It was granted based on a positive test he took in Serbia on Dec. 16. But soon after he arrived at the Melbourne airport on Jan. 5, he was detained by the federal authorities and sent to a hotel for refugees and asylum seekers.A judge quickly rescinded the detention order on procedural grounds, saying that Djokovic had not been given a fair opportunity to consult with representatives and allies, like the organizers of the tournament. He was allowed to leave detention and hit the practice courts and prepare to compete for what would be his fourth consecutive Australian Open title and record 10th over all.But an investigation revealed irregularities and inaccurate statements on Djokovic’s visa application — which Djokovic later acknowledged and apologized for on Wednesday. The documents failed to state that Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, had traveled between Serbia and Spain during the 14 days ahead of his arrival in Australia. Djokovic attributed the error to human oversight by one of his handlers.The Australian government also expressed concern that on Dec. 18, a day after Djokovic learned that he had tested positive, he hosted journalists at his tennis center in Belgrade for an interview and photo shoot, without informing them. Those revelations led to the second visa revocation on Friday.Some skeptics wondered if Djokovic’s positive test might have been faked to help him earn the exemption. On Friday, Zoran Gojkovic, a member of Serbia’s coronavirus crisis team, said the player’s positive test result was valid. He added that Djokovic had not violated any Serbian laws, especially since the state of emergency was lifted last month.The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 4A vaccine exemption question. More

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    Novak Djokovic Is Detained Awaiting Hearing on Australian Visa

    Novak Djokovic was taken into custody on Saturday by immigration officials as he fights the Australian government’s efforts to deport him.Court documents filed by his lawyers confirmed that as of 9:19 a.m. in Melbourne he was being held in immigration detention as a court decides whether he can be deported after entering Australia without being vaccinated.A judge had ruled that Djokovic would be allowed to stay at his residence until a Saturday morning meeting with immigration officials, after which he was taken into custody and escorted to the office of his attorneys. It was unclear where he was held after that.Border officers are expected to escort him again to his attorney’s offices on Sunday morning for the hearing in which both sides will lay out their case.The judge has ruled that Djokovic cannot be deported until after the court appeal is over. It is unclear whether he would voluntarily leave the country. His lawyers did not return emails seeking comment on Saturday.Djokovic’s lawyers, worried about the media storm around his case, have sought to keep his location secret. A judge ruled that both Djokovic’s attorneys and the immigration department had to agree upon his whereabouts.On Friday, Djokovic’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that he should be kept out of immigration detention for the duration of the appeal. More

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    If Djokovic Goes, What Happens to the Australian Open Bracket?

    “Limbo,” the former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee had said this week, “is the worst scenario for the tournament.”Yet for days, the uncertainty of Novak Djokovic’s status had hung over the event. The decision on Friday to cancel his visa for the second time could yield some clarity. His plan to appeal that ruling will only extend it.But coming when it did, a day after Djokovic was placed in the No. 1 spot in the men’s draw, the cancellation of his visa — if it is upheld — could force a reshuffling of the men’s bracket.If Djokovic were to be kicked out of Australia, the draw for the men’s singles tournament would have to be reconfigured. According to Grand Slam rules, the No. 5 seed, Andrey Rublev, would move into Djokovic’s vacant slot in the draw. Rublev’s place at No. 5 would then be filled by another seed as part of a series of cascading changes.But if Djokovic appeals and delays his departure, or if his withdrawal were to come after the order of play for opening day has been released, his place would be taken by a so-called lucky loser: a player who had lost in the qualifying tournament and then been drawn by lot to receive a newly open spot.And instead of having Djokovic as the favorite to win his record 10th title, and 21st Grand Slam singles championship over all, the focus would shift to three of his most likely rivals for the trophy: the U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev; the Olympic champion Alexander Zverev; and the 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.None of it, of course, is ideal for the Open.“If Novak was going to be kicked out,” McNamee said, “the time to do it was before the draw.” More

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    With Djokovic’s Status in Limbo, So Is the Australian Open

    Thursday brought no resolution in the star’s duel with the government, even as the tournament’s draw placed him (for now) at the top of the bracket.MELBOURNE, Australia — On the outside courts, spectators were seeking refuge and cool drinks on Thursday as temperatures spiked to over 90 degrees. Players exchanged shots and grunts in qualifying matches, hustling to make the most of their long journeys.But however familiar the sun-drenched scene, this already has been an Australian Open like no other, even though the main event does not begin until Monday.All story lines, all prologue, have been thoroughly overshadowed by Novak Djokovic’s duel with the Australian government over whether he will be allowed to remain in the country and chase a 10th Australian Open singles title.Thursday brought no resolution: only more speculation and the administration of the Australian Open draw, which despite a delay of more than an hour was ultimately conducted smoothly, with Djokovic placed in his now-familiar spot at the top of the bracket.Although Alex Hawke, the Australian immigration minister, has the authority to revoke Djokovic’s visa and order his deportation, Hawke has yet to say whether he will make that bold move. For now, Djokovic is scheduled to face Miomir Kecmanovic, a much younger Serbian compatriot, in the first round and could face Tommy Paul, a rising if unseeded American, in the second round.“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Brad Stine, Paul’s coach. “It’s obviously not good in so many different ways for the Australian Open or for our sport.”The Australian Open referee Wayne McKewen, center, and the tournament’s director, Craig Tiley, left, at the men’s draw on Thursday.Pool photo by Mark BakerIt was also avoidable. Djokovic is one of only a few top 100 players who have chosen not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and his decision to stick to that path, while so many of his peers have made a different choice, helped lay the groundwork for the standoff in Melbourne.Unless there is some significant medical risk that he has yet to make public, Djokovic’s anti-vaccination stance seems a triumph of self-interest over the greater good and has put him and his sport in a tight corner. Unvaccinated, he required a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open, and the state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, which runs the Australian Open, provided that exemption on the basis of a recent case of Covid-19.The Australian federal government, which controls the nation’s borders, found that insufficient. It canceled Djokovic’s visa upon arrival last week and placed him in detention, only to see that decision overturned by a federal court on procedural grounds on Monday.Liberated, Djokovic has been training at Melbourne Park, where he practiced again on Thursday in the heat. But he has weakened his own case considerably this week, confirming that after testing positive for the coronavirus on Dec. 16, instead of self-isolating, he met with the French journalist Franck Ramella on Dec. 18 in Serbia. Djokovic explained that he did not want to disappoint Ramella, but Ramella wrote in his newspaper, L’Equipe, that Djokovic made no mention of his positive test during their meeting in Belgrade.Djokovic also claimed that his agent incorrectly filled out his Australian arrival documents, inadvertently checking a box that indicated Djokovic had not traveled internationally in the 14 days before his arrival in Australia when he had, it appears, been in Spain and Serbia.Those missteps could be grounds for Hawke to cancel Djokovic’s visa anew, and the Spanish foreign ministry denied published reports that it was investigating whether Djokovic illegally entered Spain despite being unvaccinated.Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, right, had little to say about Djokovic’s case at a news conference on Thursday.Lukas Coch/EPA, via ShutterstockBut for now, Djokovic is in the Australian Open draw, and the men’s tournament is in limbo.“Limbo is the worst scenario for the tournament,” said Paul McNamee, a former Australian Open tournament director.If Djokovic were to be kicked out at this stage, the draw would have to be reconfigured. According to Grand Slam rules, the No. 5 seed, Andrey Rublev, would move into Djokovic’s vacant slot in the draw. But if Djokovic’s withdrawal were to come after the order of play for opening day has been released, he would be replaced by a so-called lucky loser: a player who had lost in the qualifying tournament and then been drawn by lot to receive a newly open spot.In McNamee’s view, “if Novak was going to be kicked out, the time to do it was before the draw.”Grand Slam draws certainly have been revised before. Andy Murray, initially seeded second at the 2017 U.S. Open, withdrew with a hip injury after the draw had been completed.The Novak Djokovic Standoff With AustraliaCard 1 of 4A vaccine exemption question. More