Tennis star Novak Djokovic has left Australia following a ruling by three judges that his deportation was legal on the grounds of "health and good order".
Federal agents escorted him to Melbourne airport where he boarded an Emirates flight bound for Dubai.
After the judges’ decision, Mr Djokovic said he was "extremely disappointed" with their ruling but confirmed that he would abide by it:
"I respect the court’s ruling and I’ll cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country,” Mr Djokovic told journalists.
"I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
"Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support.
"You have all been a great source of strength to me."
The ruling ended the 34 year old’s dream of winning a record 21st Grand Slam and defending his Australian Open title. He will also be banned from entering Australia for the next three years.
Australian authorities decided to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa after they learnt that he was unvaccinated; the tennis player was originally granted a medical exemption because he had contracted COVID-19 in December.
However, shortly after his arrival the Australian Border Force detained him and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said that his presence in the country risked fanning anti-vaccine sentiment.
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
The judges’ decision was welcomed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said his Government would always be, "prepared to take the decisions and actions necessary to protect the integrity of our borders".
However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia of conducting a “witch hunt” against the sportsman:
"He [Djokovic] came to Australia with a medical exemption proposal and then you were mistreating him for 10 days,” President Vucic said.
“Why did you do it? Doing a witch hunt against him? This is something that no one can understand.”
Main image: Novak Djokovic reacts during his semi-final match against Germany's Alexander Zverev in the ATP Finals, 20-11-2021. Picture by: REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane