Tennis: Decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's Australian visa overturned by court

The decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's Australian visa has been quashed, a Melbourne court has ruled.

Djokovic, 34, was detained at the border upon his arrival into Australia last week, after travelling to the country under the assumption he had an exemption to enter despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No.1 had been in an immigration detention hotel since Thursday, awaiting the verdict on whether he'd be allowed to remain in Australia after his visa was revoked at Melbourne Airport.

The Australian government argued non-citizens had no right of guaranteed entry to Australia, questioned his claimed exemption and stressed that even if Djokovic wins the court action, it reserved the right to detain him again and remove him from the country.

But in a hearing in Melbourne on Monday, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia overturned the decision.

Judge Anthony Kelly, who earlier in proceedings had criticised the hours-long questioning of Djokovic at Melbourne's airport when he landed on Wednesday, said both the interview and the visa cancellation "was unreasonable".

Djokovic was not given enough time to speak to tennis organisers and lawyers to respond fully after he was notified of the intent to cancel his visa, the judge said.

Kelly ordered Djokovic be freed within 30 minutes and his passport and other personal documents returned to him.

But this might not be the end of the Djokovic saga. Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke has the power to personally intervene and decide to cancel his visa.

If he does, as it would bar Djokovic from the country for three years, it would give Djokovic grounds for another appeal.

Djokovic's participation at the Australian Open was in doubt over his apparent stance on vaccination against COVID-19. 

In October, the state of Victoria implemented a vaccine mandate for professional athletes, with Djokovic yet to disclose whether or not he is vaccinated.

Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley in November ruled that all players competing must be vaccinated, before Djokovic was granted the exemption that saw him travel to Australia.

Australian officials stated that no special treatment had been given to Djokovic, despite a number of players having their requests for exemptions turned down.

Court documents showed that Djokovic had tested positive for COVID on December 16, and was free of symptoms over a 72-hour period from December 30.

Djokovic is attempting to win a record 21st Grand Slam title while at the Australian Open, currently level with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for men's Major victories.

Reuters / Newshub