Sarah Stier/Getty Novak Djokovic
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has canceled Novak Djokovic‘s visa, just three days before the 2022 Australian Open is set to begin.
On Friday, Hawke said in a statement that he canceled Djokovic’s visa “on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.” He assured that the government is “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The 34-year-old Serbian tennis star, currently ranked number one in the world by the ATP Tour, has not yet been detained or deported. However, it was announced during Friday’s court hearing that he will be required to attend an interview with immigration officials Saturday at 8 a.m. (Friday 4 p.m. ET), after which he will be detained, ESPN and CNN report.
Deportation could result in the athlete being banned from the country for three years. Djokovic’s lawyers argued in court Friday that the decision to cancel his visa again is “patently irrational” and they will be filing an appeal immediately, per CNN.
Reps for Djokovic did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’S request for comment.
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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a statement Friday agreeing with Hawke’s decision to cancel the athlete’s visa.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods,” he said. “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”
Hawke’s decision comes just days after an Australian Federal Circuit Court judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa after his entry into Australia was delayed last week due to issues with his application. The Olympian had received a COVID-19 vaccine medical exemption to play in the Grand Slam tournament prior to arriving in the country.
The cancelation of his visa means Djokovic will likely be banned from entering Australia for three years — obviously preventing him from competing in the Open, which he has won a record nine times.
It also follows news that the Australian Border Force (ABF) is investigating whether Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration stating he had not traveled in the 14 days leading to his arrival in Australia on Jan. 5, CNN reported. Djokovic had been seen in both Spain and Serbia in the two-week period the travel declaration covered.
According to the Australian Department of Home Affairs, the penalty for submitting a false travel declaration can be up to 12 months in prison.
Earlier this week, the circuit court judge found that border authorities canceled Djokovic’s visa before he was given a chance to contact his lawyers, as well as tournament organizers. His team had mistakingly requested a sub-class visa, which does not apply to anyone with a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine. With the eventual decision to reinstate the visa, the athlete was released from detention and had begun taking part in practice sessions for the tournament.
Djokovic had celebrated the Monday decision to allow him to remain in Australia with a post on Instagram. “I am pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation,” he began his caption.
“Despite all that has happened in the past week, I want to stay and to try to compete at the Australian Open. I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans,” Djokovic added. “For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong ?❤️?? .”
Djokovic’s medical exception was mandatory for him to compete in the Grand Slam tournament, and would allow him to do so regardless of his vaccination status, which he had never previously publicly confirmed prior to this debacle.