The pre-Australian Open-drama down under continues as Novak Djokovic is back in detention at the Park hotel this morning, ahead of his appeal against the re-cancellation of his visa on Sunday morning at the Federal Court of Australia.
After meeting with his lawyers for several hours, Djokovic was driven to the same immigration hotel where he spent four nights last week for what he will hope will be the final night.
The world number one’s legal team have been preparing his case following the decision of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time on the grounds of “health and good order”.
A brief procedural hearing was held on Saturday morning, where Justice David O’Callaghan confirmed the case has been transferred from the Federal Circuit Court and that the main hearing will take place at 9.30am on Sunday (10.30pm on Saturday UK time).
First match on Monday
Djokovic is due to play his first-round match at the Australian Open against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.
A timetable was agreed on Friday, with Djokovic to be detained at 8am on Saturday morning for a meeting with immigration officials before meeting with his lawyers, also under detention.
The world number one is appealing against the decision on the grounds that it was both affected by jurisdictional error and irrational, but the threshold for success is much higher than in the first hearing.
It emerged on Friday that Hawke based his finding not on the validity or otherwise of Djokovic’s medical exemption but on the potential for his continued presence in the country to stoke anti-vaccination sentiments and a threat to public order.
Hawke cited Djokovic’s status as a “high profile unvaccinated individual, who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against Covid-19” and said he had “publicly expressed anti-vaccination sentiment”.
Hawke stated his belief that not cancelling the visa could encourage Australians not to take the vaccine, increasing pressure on the health service.
“I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community.”Immigration Minister Alex Hawke
Hawke gave significant weight to Djokovic’s admission that he attended an interview with L’Equipe last month despite knowing he had tested positive for Covid-19 and argued Australians may follow suit.
“I have also given consideration to the fact that Mr Djokovic has, in the past, shown an apparent disregard for the need to isolate following the receipt of a positive Covid-19 test result,” he said.
Djokovic’s release from detention on Monday resulted in police pepper-spraying his supporters and Hawke cited the possibility of civil unrest, although his lawyers will argue on Sunday that the same could result from his deportation.
Meanwhile, across town, Emma Raducanu poked fun at the hyperbole around her in a pointed advert on the eve of the Australian Open and now she hopes her tennis can do the talking at Melbourne Park.
In the promotion for her sponsors Nike, an intense Raducanu hits balls while words like “distracted”, “perfect”, “fluke” and “one-hit wonder” flash up behind her.
Perspective has been hard to find in the aftermath of the teenager’s fairy-tale US Open triumph, with projections of world domination quickly followed by accusations of too much focus on off-court activities when she failed to immediately back up the title in her first steps on the WTA Tour.
Speaking at her pre-tournament press conference in Australia, the 19-year-old could not hide a smile as she said of the advert: “I think the video speaks for itself. That’s how I feel. That’s it, full stop.”
The 2022 season had an inauspicious start for Raducanu when she won just a single game against Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic earlier this week.
But the significant caveat was that the British number one had only just returned to full training after an ill-timed bout of coronavirus that kept her off court for three weeks.
She has been practising since at Melbourne Park with new coach Torben Beltz and is optimistic she will be able to perform better in what is a very tough first-round match against former US Open champion Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.
Raducanu, who is seeded 17, said: “It’s a challenge to try and find the balance of wanting to get out there and practise so much straight after coming out of isolation but if you overdo it with the hours after not doing anything for 20 days you always start picking up small niggles.
“The first week I wasn’t able to practise so much. But, after Sydney, the match, it was just good to see where I was at that point in time. Afterwards, I went out to sharpen up a few things on the practice court.”Emma Raducanu
“I’m actually feeling like there’s progress. All I want to see is that I’m getting slightly better and I have a better feeling. I think that gradually I’m getting there.”
This will be her fifth tournament since the US Open and in the previous four she has managed only two wins, losing her opening match three times.
Inconsistency is to be expected given Raducanu’s inexperience, demonstrated by the fact she lost in the first round of the juniors in her only previous appearance at Melbourne Park three years ago, while 12 months ago she watched the tournament on TV as she prepared for her A Levels.
The teenager knows she has a big target on her bag as a grand slam champion but is trying to lighten the load.
“I feel like because of the last few months I’ve had, maybe I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to and trained so much,” she said.
“I feel like there’s actually no pressure on me. I feel like I’m just happy to be here and have a swing. I had to jump a few hurdles to play here, so I just want to go out there and have fun and enjoy (being) on the court.
“I would say the biggest challenge is to be patient. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Whether that’s practice, whether that’s off the court, I want to be the best I can all the time. Sometimes it’s just not very viable.
“I need to just relax. As long as the trend is trending upwards, just a matter of small fluctuations, I think I can be proud. Whatever challenge that is, I feel kind of ready to face it now.”
Stephens has had a career of extreme highs and lows, reaching the Australian Open semi-finals nine years ago as a 19-year-old, falling down the rankings due to a combination of poor form and injury only to sweep to the US Open title unseeded in 2017.
She has dropped back to 68 in the rankings and is playing her first tournament of the season after marrying footballer Jozy Altidore in Florida on New Year’s Day.
Stephens remains a dangerous opponent, though, and usually rises to the occasion in the big matches, beating Petra Kvitova, Madison Keys, Coco Gauff and Karolina Pliskova at the slams last season.
“I watched Sloane win the US Open,” said Raducanu. “I hit with her last year actually. Obviously you don’t win a grand slam without being very capable.
“I think it’s going to be a tough match for sure. I’m going to go out there and enjoy the match because, just playing in this grand slam, I had to work so hard to be here.”