Djokovic clarifies timeline, admits travel doc error


Responding to what he called “continuing misinformation,” Novak Djokovic issued a statement Wednesday to clarify his movements leading up to his positive COVID-19 test result in mid-December that was used as grounds for his exemption to enter Australia ahead of tennis’ first major of the year.

Djokovic wrote on Instagram that he attended a basketball game in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Dec. 14, after which it was reported that a number of attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. Despite being asymptomatic, he took a rapid antigen test two days later that was negative, followed by a PCR test later that same day “out of an abundance of caution.”

The next day, on Dec. 17, Djokovic wrote that he took another rapid antigen test that was also negative, before attending a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good,” he noted.

It was not until after the event, he said, that he was notified of the positive PCR test result.

“The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfill a long-standing commitment for a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L’Equipe interview,” Djokovic wrote. “I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”

Djokovic’s statement came in response to new questions raised Tuesday over an immigration form, on which he said he had not traveled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia. The Monte Carlo-based athlete was seen in Spain and Serbia in that two-week period.

“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf — as I told immigration officials on my arrival — and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” Djokovic said in his statement. “This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.”

Djokovic said he would not be making any further comment “out of utmost respect for the Australian Government and their authorities and the current process.”

Djokovic was given an exemption by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the organizer of the Australian Open, from its rules requiring players to be fully vaccinated to compete because he was infected with COVID-19 in December. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But federal border authorities stopped him on arrival last week and canceled his visa. Lawyers for the government have said an infection in the previous six months was grounds for an exemption only in cases in which the coronavirus caused severe illness.

It’s not clear why Djokovic was ever granted a visa if that’s the case.

A federal judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa Monday on procedural grounds, saying he hadn’t been allowed enough time to speak to his lawyers to contest the decision. But Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still considering using his power to deport the player under separate legislation.

Hawke’s office issued a statement saying the matter was still under consideration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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