Australian judge reinstates Novak Djokovic’s visa

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MELBOURNE, Australia — An Australian judge has reinstated tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa, which was canceled after his arrival last week because he is unvaccinated.

Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly also ordered the government to release Djokovic from Melbourne hotel quarantine within 30 minutes of his decision.

Government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge after the ruling that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelation.”

That would mean Djokovic could again face deportation and could miss the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17.

The Australian government canceled 34-year-old Djokovic’s visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late Wednesday to play in the Australian Open because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Djokovic, who court documents say is unvaccinated, argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month.

Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months.

Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia, which is organizing the tournament that starts on Jan. 17, and two medical panels.

“The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood.

Wood agreed with the judge that Djokovic could not have done more.

Transcripts of Djokovic’s interview with Border Force officials and his own affidavit revealed a “repeated appeal to the officers with which he was dealing that to his understanding, uncontradicted, he had done absolutely everything that he understood was required in order for him to enter Australia,” Wood said.

Djokovic has been under guard in hotel quarantine in Melbourne since Thursday, when his visa was canceled.

But the judge ordered that the world No. 1-ranked tennis player be released from hotel quarantine during his court hearing. It was not clear where Djokovic relocated to during his hearing. He did not appear on screen in the first hours of the virtual hearing.

Djokovic’s lawyers submitted 11 grounds for appeal against his visa cancellation. The lawyers described the cancellation as “seriously illogical,” irrational and legally unreasonable.

Lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andres said in their submission that if the judge ruled in Djokovic’s favor, officials might cancel his visa a second time.

They said the vaccination requirement could only be deferred for arriving travelers who have had a COVID-19 infection if their illness was acute.

“There is no suggestion that the applicant (Djokovic) had `acute major medical illness’ in December” when he tested positive, the written submission said.

The virtual hearing crashed several times because of an overwhelming number of people from around the world trying to watch the proceedings.

At one point, an expired court link was apparently hacked and broadcast pornography, The New Daily News website reported.

Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
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MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”