Novak Djokovic

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Germany's Alexander Zverev during their men's singles quarter-final match on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 16, 2021. (William West/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

SYDNEY — The Australian government has canceled the visa of tennis star Novak Djokovic, authorities confirmed on Thursday.

The decision comes just days before the Australian Open is set to begin in Melbourne.

Djokovic was detained at a Melbourne airport for several hours following his arrival in Australia on Wednesday after the Australian Border Force (ABF) raised concerns over his entry visa. 

The world No. 1 said he had a COVID-19 vaccination exemption, allowing him to compete in the event.

Djokovic has been told that he will now have to leave Australia on Thursday. He is expected to appeal the decision.

"The ABF can confirm that Mr. Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently canceled," the ABF said in a statement. 

"Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa canceled will be detained and removed from Australia."

"The ABF can confirm Mr. Djokovic had access to his phone," the statement added. ​

The player's father, Srdjan Djokovic, told the internet portal B92 that his son was held in a guarded room.

"Mr. Djokovic's visa has been canceled," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a tweet. 

"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."

Djokovic has consistently declined to reveal his vaccination status. 

According to the AAP news agency, the tennis star had received a vaccination exemption from the Victorian government, allowing him to compete at the Australian Open. However, the player did not have the right visa to enter the country.

Earlier this week, the tournament organizers said the 34-year-old would take part thanks to an exemption:

"Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.

"One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) guidelines."

News of the exception to strict vaccination rules being granted sparked backlash in Australia.

Djokovic being allowed to play unvaccinated was a "slap in the face to everyone in Australia," the Herald Sun said.

Tournament director Craig Tiley had defended the controversial decision.

©2022 dpa GmbH. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. 

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