At least three other participants in the Australian Open with the same medical exemption as Novak Djokovic are already in the country with more potentially arriving over the next week, a source told Reuters on Friday.
Djokovic was spending the Orthodox Christmas in detention on Friday having had his visa cancelled on arrival in Australia when officials ruled his documentation was insufficient to allow him entry to the country while unvaccinated.
The political fallout, both domestically and abroad, intensified overnight as Djokovic’s legal team prepared documents aimed at extending his stay after a Federal court hearing in Melbourne on Monday.
The 20-times Grand Slam winner might not be the only person hoping to take part in the Australian Open to face removal from the country, however.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has confirmed the Australian Border Force is assessing the credentials of two others who entered the country under the same exemption granted to Djokovic.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that a third participant in the Grand Slam also entered Australia on the same framework, which had been put in place by Tennis Australia and the Victoria State government.
Exemptions may also have been granted to players or officials who are yet to arrive in Australia, the source added.
While the tournament proper begins on Jan. 17, ITF Junior events and wheelchair tournaments are set to begin next week, so too the qualifying events for the Australian Open.
TA has not commented on the matter since Djokovic was initially detained at Melbourne Airport shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
Tournament director Craig Tiley, who is also the TA chief executive, defended the medical exemption granted to Djokovic prior to his detention.
Srdjan Djokovic, the detained player’s father, has claimed more than 20 exemptions were handed out to tennis participants prior to the Australian Border Force’s intervention.
Tiley said this week 26 claims for exemptions had been lodged, but only a “handful” had been approved.
Djokovic’s legal team of Nick Wood and Paul Holdenson is expected to file further documents on Saturday supporting the nine-times Australian Open champion’s bid for an injunction to delay his departure.
Justin Quill, a partner with Thomson Geer who specializes in media law, said Djokovic might be able to play the Australian Open even while his challenge to the deportation decision proceeds.
He said if Djokovic’s interim injunction was successful, the hearing into the matter proper was likely to be listed for a date falling well after the completion of the tournament on Jan. 30.
“When you look at interlocutory injunctions, you have to clear two things,” Quill told Reuters.
“You have to demonstrate there is an arguable case with reasonable grounds. If Djokovic gets over that first hurdle, the next thing is Balance of Convenience.
“This is where you balance the scales in regards to the imposition on each party and who will be hindered more if their rights are wrongly denied.”
Quill said he believed the Balance of Convenience could favour Djokovic.
“If it turns out the Home Affairs Minister is right and he ultimately wins the case, they can deport Djokovic then. It doesn’t really impact the minister too much,” Quill said.
“If it turns out Novak is right and that they never had the right to deport him, he can’t get back the chance at the 2022 Australian Open. He can’t get back his attempt to go down as the greatest ever grand slam winner in history.”