Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked male tennis player, says errors were made on his entry documents about his activities in the weeks before traveling to Australia, adding another layer of controversy in his fight to compete in the year’s first major “Grand Slam” tennis tournament.
The Serbian star issued a statement Wednesday saying his assistants had incorrectly declared that he had not traveled anywhere in the 14-days before departing for Melbourne last week. Reports have surfaced showing he traveled to Serbia and Spain.
Djokovic also said he did not know he tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16 until the next day, after he appeared at a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children. He also admitted that he should have canceled a planned magazine interview and photoshoot the day after learning of his status.
The 34-year-old Djokovic has been at odds with Australian officials since his arrival in Melbourne last Wednesday to begin preparations for the Australian Open, which begins next Monday, January 17. An open skeptic of COVID-19 vaccines, he said he had received a medical exemption from two medical panels and Tennis Australia, the tournament’s organizer, from the government’s requirement that all visitors should be vaccinated against COVID-19.
But the government rejected Djokovic’s exemption and revoked his visa amid a public uproar in Australia, which is battling with a huge spike in new coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant. He was placed in immigration detention until a judge overruled the government in a hearing Monday and reinstated his visa.
But Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still could decide to expel Djokovic from Australia because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic is seeking his second consecutive Australian Open men’s title and his 10th overall. It would also be his 21st career Grand Slam win, which would break the tie he shares with his closest rivals, Rafeal Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.