Novak Djokovic has admitted that the information on his Australian travel declaration form was wrong, as the government prepares to decide whether or not to deport the Serbian tennis star, who is not immune to COVID-19, on public-interest grounds.
When his vaccine exemption was questioned upon his arrival in Melbourne last week, the men’s tennis No. 1 had his visa revoked, but he won a judicial battle on procedural grounds that enabled him to stay in the country. He still risks deportation, which is completely at the discretion of Australia’s Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, if considered necessary in the public interest for health and safety grounds.
Hawke has been debating the issue since Djokovic’s visa was restored by a judge on Monday.
Most Australians disapproved of the nine-time and reigning Australian Open champion traveling to Melbourne to participate in violation of the country’s strict pandemic quarantine restrictions, according to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“Most of us expected Mr. Djokovic would be forced to leave because he hadn’t been vaxxed twice,” Joyce told Nine Network television on Thursday. “Well, it was our point of view, but not the court’s.”
“The great majority of Australians… didn’t like the concept that someone else, whether it’s a tennis player or the King of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules than the rest of us,” Joyce continued.
The event’s men’s and women’s singles brackets were supposed to be determined at 3 p.m. local time (0400 GMT), but a tournament official notified waiting reporters that the ceremony had been postponed until further notice and denied further comment.
There was conjecture that the postponement was due to doubts about Djokovic’s ability to compete.
The controversy surrounding Djokovic’s presence in Australia is raging against the backdrop of a nationwide outbreak of COVID-19.
To reduce the number of workers missing work, Victoria state, which hosts the Australian Open, reduced seven-day isolation regulations for close contacts of those sick in areas including as education and transportation on Thursday.
In the most recent 24-hour period on Thursday, the state registered 37,169 new COVID-19 cases, 25 fatalities, and 953 hospitalizations.
To lessen the danger of transmission, ticket sales for the tennis event have been restricted.
The tennis player cited “human error” by his support team for failing to indicate that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia in a statement uploaded to his social media sites on Wednesday.
Giving incorrect information on the form might result in deportation, according to the newest twist in the controversy over whether the athlete should be allowed to stay in Australia despite not having been vaccinated. The original announcement that Djokovic had been granted an exemption from severe vaccination requirements to enter the country sparked outrage, and the resulting controversy has since dominated the Australian Open build-up.
When Djokovic attempted to explain what he called “continued disinformation” regarding his actions after becoming sick last month, he admitted the breaches — albeit he did not specify which falsehoods he was referring to.
Djokovic made the comments while practicing at Rod Laver Arena, his third time on the tournament’s main court after being released from four nights in immigration detention.
Djokovic is still in uncertainty ahead of the year’s first tennis major, which begins on Monday. The stakes are especially high since he is attempting to set a new men’s record by winning his 21st Grand Slam singles championship.
Deportation may result in a three-year ban from entering Australia, which would be a difficult scenario for a player who has won nearly half of his 20 Grand Slam singles championships here.
The great player’s appearance at events in his home Serbia last month stirred curiosity as court paperwork outlining his positive test surfaced. Further doubts were raised regarding flaws on his immigration document, which might result in his visa being revoked once more.
Djokovic claimed on the form that he had not traveled in the 14 days leading up to his departure to Australia, despite having been sighted in Spain and Serbia during that time.
Djokovic stated in a statement that recent feedback has been “hurtful” and that he wanted to address it in the hopes of “alleviating larger community anxiety about my presence in Australia.”
Before receiving his positive result from a PCR test he conducted out of a “abundance of caution” after watching a basketball game in Belgrade on Dec. 14, the 34-year-old Serb stated he’d completed negative fast tests and was asymptomatic.
He got the news late on Dec. 17 and canceled everything save a long-awaited interview with the daily L’Equipe the next day, he claimed.
“I felt obligated to go ahead,” Djokovic recalled, “but I made sure I socially detached myself and donned a mask until when my portrait was being taken.”
The reporter for L’Equipe who interviewed Djokovic revealed in the newspaper that he and a photographer were likewise disguised during the session — and kept their distance save for a brief time when Djokovic said his goodbyes. On Monday, the reporter stated he tested negative for COVID-19, but he didn’t say anything about the photographer’s situation.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the appropriate duration,” Djokovic said, “on reflection, this was an error of judgment.”
Serbia mandated persons infected with COVID-19 to isolate for at least 14 days at the time. However, Djokovic was seen on the streets of Belgrade little over a week following his positive test, despite the fact that he claimed he had tested negative in the meantime.
In the meanwhile, Djokovic addressed the Australian trip statement, stating that it was filed by his support staff and that “my agent genuinely apologizes for the administrative error in marking the erroneous box.”
He remarked, “This was a human error and surely not purposeful.” “To clarify this problem, my team has submitted further material to the Australian Government.”
The judgment may take some time, but there is a deadline to meet because the Australian Open bracket draw is scheduled for Thursday.
Hawke’s office said Djokovic’s legal team had filed additional papers on Wednesday, adding, “Naturally, this will alter the timeline for a judgment.”
Since he just recovered from COVID-19, the question is whether he has a legal exemption to the tight restrictions requiring immunization to enter Australia.
The Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the event organizer, both authorized his exemption to play. As a result, he was able to get a travel visa.
However, the Australian Border Force refused the exception and revoked his visa upon arrival, which was later reversed by a federal judge. Government lawyers have indicated that an infection only qualifies for an exemption if the coronavirus causes serious sickness — but it’s unclear why he was granted a visa if that’s the case.
The decision to allow him to participate generated accusations that he was being treated unfairly, and the subsequent rejection of his visa sparked claims that he was being singled out once the matter got political. The controversy is unfolding against the backdrop of mounting alarm in Australia about the rising number of COVID-19 cases — and the government’s response to them.
If Djokovic’s visa is revoked, his attorneys may return to court to seek an injunction to prevent him from being forced to leave the country.
If Djokovic’s visa is revoked, he would most likely be put in immigration detention, according to Sydney-based immigration lawyer Simon Jeans. In the meanwhile, Djokovic might seek for a bridging visa to participate in the event. That application would be decided within two business days by the immigration authorities. An appeal would generally take weeks if Djokovic was denied such a visa, according to Jeans.