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Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s anti-vaccination stance has cost him a potential payday of A$2.875 million ($2.1 million) and a shot at tennis history. 

Djokovic will leave Australia after the nation’s Federal Court upheld a decision to revoke his entry permit over fears his presence would strengthen anti-vaccination sentiment. It wasn’t up to the court to decide on the merits of the decision, only whether it was illogical or legally unreasonable, Chief Justice James Allsop said Sunday. 

“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country," Djokovic said in an emailed statement. “I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate." 

It’s a blow to Djokovic’s hopes of winning a record 21st Grand Slam singles title that would have come with A$2.875 million in prize money. The world’s top ranked player has won the Australian Open the past three years and notched almost half of his Grand Slam titles at the tournament, which kicks off on Monday. 

Djokovic is paying a high price for seeking to bypass an entry requirement in one of the world’s most vaccinated countries. Host-city Melbourne endured strict lockdowns during the pandemic and the tennis star has been dogged by public outrage since arriving with a medical exemption on Jan. 5. At the same time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to show his strength in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and border rules ahead of a general election that must be called by May. 

An opinion poll published by Melbourne’s Age newspaper on Sunday showed almost three quarters of Australians believe Djokovic should be sent home. Just 14% said he should be allowed to stay and play in the Australian Open, the poll of 1607 people showed. 

Djokovic’s lawyers challenged Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s use of special powers to revoke his visa on grounds of health and good order, and on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so. The decision reversed an earlier court ruling that quashed his first visa cancellation for procedural reasons. 

Hawke argued the Serbian star’s presence risked strengthening anti-vaccination sentiment among a minority of the population and creating a public order risk, according to court documents. Djokovic is unvaccinated and has shown an “apparent disregard" for basic rules such as isolating after a positive test, which may encourage or influence others to emulate his conduct, Hawke said.

Djokovic could face a three-year ban from entering Australia. That may be waived if there are “compelling circumstances" for granting any future visas, according to Australia’s Home Affairs department.

For Djokovic, his lawyers said Hawke took an “unreasonable approach" to assessing whether his deportation was in the public interest and cited no evidence that his presence may foster anti-vaccination sentiment. The only evidence of protests referring to Djokovic’s case were caused by the state canceling his visa the first time, barrister Nick Wood said in the hearing Sunday.

“Rightly or wrongly he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and his presence here is perceived to contribute to that," barrister Stephen Lloyd, acting for the government, told the court.

The unanimous court decision ends a tumultuous lead up to the first tennis Grand Slam of 2022 after Djokovic was entered into the draw despite questions remaining over his ability to stay in the country. The saga has been asked about at most press conferences with tennis’ best players, drawing attention away from the tournament itself.

“Australian Open is much more important than any player," world no. 6 Rafael Nadal told reporters Saturday. “Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt, but there is no one player in history that’s more important than an event." 

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