Having arrived in Melbourne the nine-time champion was told he could not get in due to issues with his visa, and evidence supporting his vaccine exemption.
Djokovic, who had been kept in detention at the city’s airport for more than eight hours while the matter was investigated, swiftly issued a legal challenge to the ruling.
Novak Djokovic has been kicked out of the Australian Open after the country barred him
However, that is expected to happen with him back in Europe, and he was due to be sent back home on a flight on Thursday.
A statement from Australia’s Border Force on Thursday night confirmed: ‘Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.’ It added that ‘Non-citizens ‘who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.’
With feelings running high, his father Srdjan accused Australian authorities of ‘holding my son captive’ before the decision was finally made. Even Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic became involved, ringing the country’s leading sports star to express his solidarity.
Separated from his support team and coach, former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, he was prevented from going through passport control after arriving via the Middle East.
Assuming the deportation order held, the world No 1 would have spent less than 24 hours in the country, rather than his usual prolonged stay which has so often ended with him winning the title.
Known vaccine-sceptic Djokovic had stirred up local opinion on Tuesday by finally revealing that he would be leaving for Australia, having obtained a controversial medical exemption from being jabbed against Covid.
Politicians, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, responded with a flurry of briefings and he was held after disparities emerged between his paperwork and the type of visa he had applied for.
The 34-year-old Serb, who had headed south in search of a record 21st Grand Slam title, saw his problems begin when he was in mid-air between Dubai and Melbourne.
It appears that a discrepancy had been found between the visa he possessed and the documentation that had been supplied to back up his case for not being vaccinated. A member of his staff had applied for the incorrect permit for someone seeking an exemption.
While there has been a lack of transparency over the whole saga, with medical confidentiality cited, what is clear is that Australian politicians awoke on Wednesday to discern the level of public disquiet about his situation.
There followed some political pinball between Tennis Australia, the Victoria government, the national government and Border Force authorities.
Certainly none of them wished to be associated with a decision to give the player free entry into a country that has been so worn down by long-term Covid restrictions.
His flight landed in Melbourne shortly after 11pm and he was taken into a room on his own. His father, Srdjan, gave an account of the conditions he was being kept in to Belgrade broadcaster B92: ‘Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter. In front of the room are two policemen,’ he said.
The world number one was also said to have had his phone confiscated while officials checked the provenance of his exemption proof in the middle of the night.
The brouhaha went to the very top of the national government, with Prime Minister Morrison saying earlier: ‘If medical exemptions have been provided by professionals and that has been furnished to him as a proviso for him to get on that plane, well, that will have to stack up when he arrives in Australia. There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all.’
The state of Victoria’s acting sports and tourism minister Jaala Pulford alluded to the complexities of the issue, posting on social media: ‘The federal (national) government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open. We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the federal (national) government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.’
A further headache for the tournament is how this might affect other, lower profile players and support staff who have been granted similar exemptions. Tennis Australia supremo Craig Tiley has stated that there were 26 applications, but that only a handful had been granted by two independent medical panels, one of them being Djokovic.