Lawyer: Novak Djokovic has good chance of getting Australian visa

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BRISBANE, Australia — A Melbourne-based immigration lawyer says Novak Djokovic will likely be successful if he applies for a visa to enter Australia for the season-opening tennis major next year despite his high-profile deportation in January.

It could be as simple as writing to the Australian Border Force, explaining his exceptional circumstances and asking for any ban on re-entry to be waived.

The 21-time Grand Slam singles champion wasn’t allowed to defend his Australian Open title this year after a tumultuous 10-day legal saga over his COVID-19 vaccination status that culminated with his visa being revoked on the eve of the tournament.

The meant he could face an exclusion period of up to three years, but Australian Border Force officials have said those can be waived in certain circumstances – and that each case would be assessed on its merits.

And Djokovic has a case. He arrived at Melbourne Airport as the world’s top-ranked tennis player with a visa he’d obtained online and what he believed to be a valid medical exemption to the country’s strict laws for unvaccinated travelers because it was endorsed by Tennis Australia and the government of Victoria state, which hosts the tournament.

Confusion reigned, generating global headlines. As it transpired, that medical exemption allowed him entry to the tournament, which required all players, fans and officials to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, but not necessarily to enter the country. It was rejected by the Australian Border Force.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke ultimately used discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa on character grounds, stating he was a “talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiment.”

Immigration lawyer Kon-ming Tsai said that in his opinion, it would “be in Australia’s best interests” to allow Djokovic entry for the 2023 tournament.

“There is no risk factor here with allowing him back in,” Tsai said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “He’s not going to create a problem for the community. He is one of the world’s best tennis players and will be able to pull in a lot of foreign visitors.”

Djokovic has not officially said if he will apply for a visa for Australia, with his media group in Belgrade saying it so far has no information regarding nine-time Australian Open winner’s plans regarding the Jan. 16-29 tournament.

Australia has had a change of government and changed its border rules this year and, since July 6, incoming travelers no longer have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations. That removes one major barrier to entry for Djokovic.

The 35-year-old Serbian star, who has won recent tournaments in Kazakhstan and Israel, can now apply to new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to reconsider his visa status.

In his favor, Djokovic left Australia quickly after his visa was revoked, he has not publicly criticized Australian authorities and will only be seeking a temporary visa.

The first step in the process is to make an official visa application, starting a two-stage procedure.

As the Department of Home Affairs website explains, applicants in Djokovic’s circumstances must explain in writing to Australian Border Force why the exclusion period should be put aside – “you must show us that there are compassionate or compelling circumstances to put aside your re-entry ban and grant you the visa.”

The ABF does not comment on individual cases as a matter of policy.

A review into Djokovic’s visa saga led to Tennis Australia outsourcing visa applications by players and their entourages to a company specializing in immigration matters.

That company, Absolute Immigration, has been asked for comment on Djokovic’s status but did not immediately respond.

At the 2023 Australian Open launch at Melbourne Park, tournament director Craig Tiley said Tennis Australia wants to welcome Djokovic back but can’t give him any official support with lobbying to the Australian government.

“It is not a matter we can lobby on. It is a matter that definitely stays between the two of them,” Tiley said, referring to Djokovic and the Australian government.

Tiley was heavily criticized for his role in the confusion which led to Djokovic being detained in an immigration hotel.

After meeting up with him in London last month, Tiley said he believes Djokovic holds no bitterness about the saga.

“He said that he would obviously love to come back to Australia but he knows it’s going to be an ultimate decision for the federal government and he accepts that,” Tiley, who is also the Tennis Australia chief executive, said. “If you notice, he is playing a lot of tennis at the end of the year in anticipation and hope there is a successful outcome with his application. But that is up to him.”

If Djokovic goes that route, the Malaysian-born Tsai said his decade-long experience of dealing with Australian immigration laws made him think it would likely result in a decision in Djokovic’s favor.

“Bottom line is that it’s in Australia’s best interest to lift the ban and have Djokovic return,” Tsai said.

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

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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.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.