Novak Djokovic, in the back of a car upon arrival at a migrant detention hotel, in Melbourne, Australia, on January 15, 2022. (Channel 9 via AP)

MELBOURNE (AP) — Novak Djokovic was detained again by immigration authorities on Saturday after his legal fight to prevent Australia from deporting him for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 reached a higher court.

A hearing before the Federal Court was scheduled for Sunday, one day before the date on which the number one tennis player in the world must play his first match of the year at the Australian Open, where he is the defending champion and has been crowned nine times. .

Police closed a lane behind the building where Djokovic’s lawyers work and two vehicles left the building in mid-afternoon local time.

In television images it was possible to see Djokovic, wearing a mask, in the back seat of a vehicle and near a detention hotel used by immigration authorities.

The Australian Associated Press reported that Djokovic, the world’s highest-ranked tennis player, was in custody again. The Serb has already spent four nights confined to a hotel near central Melbourne before being released on Monday, when he won an appeal against the cancellation of his visa due to procedural formalities.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday again invalidated the 34-year-old tennis player’s visa, which had previously been revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on January 5.

A deportation from Australia would bar Djokovic from returning for three years, although that sanction could be lifted depending on the circumstances.

The tennis player has acknowledged that his travel declaration was incorrect, since he did not report his presence in multiple countries during the two weeks prior to his arrival in Australia.

But that was not why Hawke decided his expulsion from the country was in the public interest: court documents filed on Saturday by the Serb’s legal team revealed that the minister claimed that “Djokovic is perceived by some as a talisman of anti-vaccine community.

Australia has one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in the world, with 89% of those over the age of 16 inoculated.

But Hawke claimed that Djokovic’s presence in the country could be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian population, and “could be counterproductive to the vaccination efforts of other people in Australia.”

The Health Department noted that Djokovic had a “low” risk of transmitting the disease and a “very low” risk of doing so at the tournament.

The minister cited statements made by Djokovic in April 2020, before there was a vaccine against COVID-19, in which he stated that he was “opposed to vaccination”.

Djokovic had “previously stated that he did not want to be forced by anyone to get vaccinated” in order to compete.

The evidence “makes it clear that he has publicly expressed anti-vaccine sentiment,” the minister wrote in his reasons.

The tennis player’s lawyers allege that the minister did not cite evidence that the Serb’s presence in the country can “foster anti-vaccine sentiment.”

Djokovic will be able to leave the hotel where he is being held on Sunday and visit his lawyers’ offices for the hearing by videoconference.

The case was elevated Saturday from the Federal Circuit and Family Court to Federal Court. The number of magistrates who will judge the case from 09:30 in the morning is yet to be determined.

Djokovic has won the last three editions of the Australian Open. He has won 20 titles in Grand Slam tournaments, so he is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the greatest monarchs in the great events of the men’s circuit in history.

Through his social networks, Djokovic published on Wednesday what has been his most extensive public comment on this entire episode. He blamed his representative for selecting the wrong option on the Australian entry form.

He considered that it was “a human error, certainly not deliberate.”

In that same post, Djokovic said he held up an interview and photo shoot with a French newspaper in Serbia knowing he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier.

Djokovic has tried to use his positive from December 16 as justification to play in Australia without getting vaccinated.

Novak Djokovic, in the back of a car upon arrival at a migrant detention hotel, in Melbourne, Australia, on January 15, 2022. (Channel 9 via AP)

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