Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after losing a last-ditch court bid to stay in the country.
Judges rejected a challenge by the unvaccinated tennis star after the government canceled his visa on “health and good order” grounds.
Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” but accepted the ruling. He has left on a flight to Dubai.
It marks the end of a 10-day saga, in which the Serb fought to stay to defend his title in the Australian Open.
Djokovic’s supporters fell silent outside the courtroom as the decision was announced on the eve of what would have been his opening match in the tournament. One fan told the BBC her summer would be “empty” without the 34-year-old playing at the Open.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed “the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe” but his government faces criticism at home and abroad for its handling of the affair.
Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling but respected it. He released a statement shortly after three Federal Court judges unanimously upheld a decision made Friday by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel Djokovic’s visa on public interest grounds because he is not vaccinated.
Djokovic, 34, has won a record nine Australian Open titles — including three in a row — but he won’t get the chance to try for a 10th this year. Hawke confirmed Sunday that Djokovic “has now departed Australia.”
A masked Djokovic was photographed in a Melbourne airport lounge with two government officials in black uniforms. He left at approximately 11 p.m. local time on an Emirates flight to Dubai, the same United Arab Emirates city he flew to Australia from.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” Djokovic said in a statement.
“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” he added.
Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” that the focus had been on him since his visa was first canceled on arrival at the Melbourne airport on Jan. 6.
His absence means just one past champion is in the men’s bracket: 2009 winner Nadal, who will have the chance to claim a 21st Grand Slam title and break the tie with Djokovic and Federer, who is sidelined after a series of knee operations.
The Serbian tennis association expressed “huge disappointment” and described the decision to deport Djokovic as “political.”