It took 11 days, but the federal government finally got its man.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews are celebrating Djokovic's expulsion as a win for the hard-line border policy which has shielded Australia from the worst of the pandemic.
The public mood appeared firmly against the world No.1, so his deportation might well bring the Coalition a bounce in the polls on the eve of the federal election.
But if this can be counted as a victory for the Morrison government, it is a hollow one.
A contest without a winner
Djokovic, Tennis Australia, the Victorian government, Australian Border Force and the Morrison government are in their own ways culpable for the events which have played out over the past week-and-a-half.
None of the parties emerge from this episode with reputations entirely unstained.
Let's start with Djokovic.
He isn't competing at the Australian Open - where he could have won a record 21st grand slam title, moving him clear of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - because of one person: Novak Djokovic.
Had he got vaccinated, just as 97 per cent of his professional tennis peers reportedly have, he would be playing on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
End of story.
But he didn't.
Now let's move to the Morrison government.
In upholding Mr Hawke's decision to cancel Djokovic's visa, the Federal Court was not endorsing or agreeing with the government's actions.
Rather, it simply didn't find a legal error had been made in the exercise of Hawke's personal power to cancel Djokovic's visa on public interest grounds.
This is a critical point.
The immigration minister's visa cancellation power is so blunt, brutal and far-reaching - some have described it as "God-like" - that Djokovic might never have stood a chance, irrespective of the strength of his argument or the weaknesses of the governments.
If Djokovic, with the benefit of urgently-convened court hearings and the best lawyers money can buy, couldn't win, what hope do less fortunate visa holders, refugees or asylum seekers have in overturning decisions?
An 11th-hour pivot
Mr Hawke's powers were ultimately the hatch from which the Morrison government managed to escape the bind it found itself in.
The Federal Circuit Court had already overruled its first attempt to cancel Djokovic's visa on procedural fairness grounds, and Judge Anthony Kelly, without making a formal finding, questioned what more the tennis star could have done to prove he had permission to enter the country.
The sweeping scope of Mr Hawke's visa cancellation powers allowed him to dramatically reposition the government's argument against the 20-time grand slam champion at the 11th hour.
Djokovic's visa was originally cancelled after he failed to produce what federal authorities considered to be acceptable proof he couldn't be vaccinated against COVID-19.
While expert panels overseen by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government handed Djokovic a medical exemption on the grounds he had recovered from a bout of COVID-19 in mid-December, federal authorities didn't consider that to be a valid reason not to be vaccinated.
And yet, when push came to shove, this question - so central to the saga - was all but irrelevant.
Djokovic's visa was cancelled because Mr Hawke believed the presence of a high-profile vaccine sceptic in Australia may stoke anti-vaccination sentiment.
The word may is critical. Under the Migration Act, Mr Hawke didn't need to be satisfied Djokovic would necessarilypose a risk to the health, safety and good order of the Australian community in order to punt him on those grounds. Only that he may.
That is a substantially lower threshold to meet.
The new argument also meant the government didn't have to fight the case on the legitimacy or otherwise of Djokovic's travel documents.
With the court fight safely behind it and Djokovic on a plane to Dubai, Mr Morrison and his ministers swiftly pivoted back to their original argument.
"If you want to come, you have to be vaccinated or you've got to have a valid medical exemption, and neither of those were in place. So people make their own choices. And those choices meant you couldn't come here and play tennis," Mr Morrison said.
Exposed on two fronts
Mr Hawke's redrawn argument ultimately delivered the outcome which the government had sought.
But it has left the Coalition exposed on two fronts.
First, Mr Hawke's reasoning that Djokovic's stance on vaccination made him a threat to Australia raises the question of whether he should have been given a visa in the first place.
Labor's immigration and home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, hammered home this point on Tuesday morning.
Secondly, Mr Hawke's argument about the threat posed by high-profile anti-vaxxers has prompted accusations of hypocrisy given the views expressed by some within the government's ranks - including George Christensen, Alex Antic and Gerard Rennick.
Mr Morrison rejected claims of a double-standard, arguing on 2GB radio Australian citizens had a right to express their views.
Dark shadow over the 'Happy Slam'
The Australian Open - affectionately known as the "Happy Slam" - started on Monday.
Djokovic is gone, but the visa saga will cast a long and dark shadow over the next fortnight's play at Melbourne Park.
Tennis Australia boss and tournament director Craig Tiley is facing pressure to resign from his post, and not without reason. He has questions to answer.
Why did Tennis Australia inform players a recent COVID-19 case could be grounds for a medical exemption, even after being told by federal health authorities it wasn't?
Tiley has blamed conflicting and confusing advice from federal authorities for the visa mess-up. But if there was any doubt at all about Djokovic's eligibility to enter Australia, why allow the tournament's star attraction to board the plane before it could be cleared up?
If that had occurred, the saga could have been averted or at least played out while Djokovic was overseas, not in Australian immigration detention.
But it didn't.
It was just once of the many missteps, or unforced errors to steal a tennis term, which led to this messy and embarrassing episode.
The ramifications for Australia's international reputation and that of its premier annual global sporting event might be felt for years.
The international spotlight shone on the refugees and asylum seekers detained in the Melbourne hotel where Djokovic was briefly held might prove the only silver lining.
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