(REUTERS) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for Novak Djokovic to compete at next year’s Australian Open despite the tennis superstar facing an automatic three-year ban from entering the country.
The world No. 1 player left Australia late on Sunday (Jan 16) after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa, capping days of drama over the country’s Covid-19 entry rules and his unvaccinated status.
Under immigration law, Djokovic cannot be granted another visa for three years unless Australia’s immigration minister accepts there are compelling or compassionate reasons.
“I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls he has to make,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday (Jan 17) as Djokovic was en route to Dubai.
“It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for (a person) to return in the right circumstances, and that will be considered at the time.”
The unanimous ruling by a three-judge Federal Court bench dealt a final blow to Djokovic’s hopes of chasing a record 21st Grand Slam win at the Australian Open, which started on Monday (Jan 17), dismaying his family and supporters.
In a rollercoaster ride, the world’s top men’s player was first detained by immigration authorities on Jan 6, ordered released by a court on Jan 10 and then detained again on Saturday pending Sunday’s court hearing.
Djokovic, 34, said he was extremely disappointed by the ruling but he respected the court’s decision.
“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 the tournament I love,” Djokovic said in a statement before flying out of Melbourne.
The player was filmed by Reuters wearing a mask and taking selfies with fans at the arrival gate in Dubai as he waited for his entourage to follow him off the plane.
Djokovic was escorted by airline staff on a terminal buggy to the departure gate for a flight a few hours later to Belgrade. He checked in alone for the six-hour flight.