Djokovic court hearing begins in Melbourne but technical gremlins strike as star bids for Australian Open freedom

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Novak Djokovic faced a crunch day as his lawyers fought to win his freedom to play at the Australian Open – but the failure of a live court stream left the world in the dark about what was being disclosed.

Djokovic's case went before Melbourne's Federal Circuit Court on Monday, with the world number one attempting to defeat a deportation order brought by Australia's federal government.

Video footage of proceedings was promised by court officials, with huge global interest in the case, but at the scheduled hearing start time of 10am the website platform had crashed.

With the stream unavailable, the hearing was initially said by court officials to have been delayed, before word came through shortly after 10.30am in Melbourne that it had begun.

Serbian superstar Djokovic secured an injunction against immediate deportation on Thursday and spent the weekend at a detention hotel.

Ahead of the Australian Open, where he has won the men's singles title a record nine times, including last year, Djokovic arrived in the country with what he insisted were the correct documents.

Yet Australian Border Force officials cancelled his visa application, stating Djokovic had "failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia".

Lawyers for the 34-year-old have since stated the Serbian was granted a temporary activity visa on November 18. Djokovic's legal team said he was granted a medical exemption for the first grand slam of the year after a COVID-19 positive test on December 16, and that he was later given the go-ahead by Australia's Department of Home Affairs to travel.

However, lawyers for the federal government submitted their own court filing on Sunday, disputing Djokovic's right to come to Australia.

"There is no suggestion that the applicant had 'acute major medical illness' in December 2021," said the government filing. "All he has said is that he tested positive for COVID-19. This is not the same."

The government document also stated that, should the hearing ruling go in Djokovic's favour, it must be expressly stated that he could not be re-detained or have his visa cancelled once again. Otherwise, he could be denied entry to the country once more.

The issue has become a political hot topic in Australia, with Djokovic's stance on COVID-19 matters rankling with many, particularly in the state of Victoria, who have faced hard lockdowns during the pandemic.

The case was listed as Novak Djokovic v Minister for Home Affairs. That minister is Karen Andrews; however, the matter has been onee in which prime minister Scott Morrison has also become a central figure, insisting when Djokovic's visa was revoked: "Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules."

Djokovic has declined to confirm his vaccination status, but by requiring an exemption to compete at Melbourne Park it has been widely assumed he has not been jabbed. The government filing on Sunday stated it was "common ground that the applicant is unvaccinated".

Judge Anthony Kelly turned down a government request to delay the hearing by two days until Wednesday.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said ahead of the hearing that he hoped Djokovic would be cleared to play.

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