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Friday, January 21, 2022

Djokovic defends himself after ‘hurtful’ COVID allegations

While ramping up his preparations at Melbourne Park, world No.1 Novak Djokovic has denied that he knowingly lied on his visa application or attended sports events while infectious with COVID-19.

Djokovic used social media to issue a statement addressing “hurtful misinformation” about his movements ahead of his flight to Australia.

The Serbian superstar, who had his visa cancellation overturned in the Federal Circuit Court, still faces the possibility of deportation with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke reviewing the case.

The nine-times Australian Open champion said he tested positive for COVID-19 in December but stressed he wasn’t out in the community while knowingly infected.

“I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations,” Djokovic wrote in an Instagram post.

Detailing his movements before his positive result on December 18, he said he attended a basketball game in Belgrade on December 14.

With a number of cases later revealed to have attended the game he took a rapid test and also a PCR test on December 16.

“The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative,” he wrote.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PR test result until after that event.”

Djokovic said before isolating he fulfilled a commitment with French newspaper L’Equipe which he now believed was an “error of judgement”.

Djokovic’s statement also addressed the discrepancy in his travel declaration and said it was submitted by his agent.

“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.

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.”

A decision by the Immigration Minister isn’t expected until Thursday at the earliest after Djokovic’s lawyers presented further information.

“Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa,” Hawke’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Naturally, this will affect the time-frame for a decision.”

Gunning for a record 21 grand slam titles, Djokovic spent an hour on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday which was his third training session since being released from hotel detention.

Following Australia’s world No.1 women’s player Ash Barty on to court, Djokovic hit with 20-year-old West Australian Tristan Schoolkate.

A wildcard in the Australian Open qualifying tournament, Schoolkate was eliminated in round one by American Christopher Eubanks on Tuesday.

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