Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Djokovic admits making false declaration on travel form, meeting scribe in isolation

World No. 1 tennis players Novak Djokovic — in the middle of a controversy over detention and subsequent release in Australia — has accepted that his agent made mistakes on his immigration forms and that he met a journalist despite testing positive for COVID.

The Serb took to social media in response to “ongoing misinformation” about his activities while he was COVID positive.

Djokovic’s troubles started when he announced on January 4 that the Australian Open organizers had given him a medical exemption to play at the tournament. The announcement did not go well with a section of the Australian population which have been under stringent COVID regulations since the start of the pandemic. As a result, when Djokovic landed in Melbourne on January 5, he was stopped by the Australian border control force, which claimed there was an error in his medical exemption. His visa was subsequently cancelled for not declaring his vaccination status and was asked to return to Serbia. The tennis star challenged the deportation and his lawyers launched an appeal against the Australian government’s decision. Djokovic was housed at the Carlton’s Park Hotel in Melbourne, but the local court ordered his release on January 10. The Serb is hoping to play in the Australian Open starting January 17, but the Australian government has threatened to cancel his visa any time now.

Australia’s interior minister Alex Hawke had said that the government could cancel the visa based on prior COVID infections not counting as an exemption. Besides his visa could also be cancelled on “character grounds” based on an investigation into his arrival form and potential breaches of Serbia’s COVID rules.

On his interview to a French magazine while he was still COVID positive, Djokovic said he “didn’t want to let the journalist down”. “[I ensured] I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” Djokovic said in his Instagram post.

L’Equipe journalist Franck Ramella said the Serb star did not remove his mask during the interview even when asked to for just five minutes. Ramella also said that he had been told not to ask Djokovic about his vaccination status or the upcoming Australian Open.

The 34-year-old also admitted making a false declaration on his travel form before entering Australia. He said his agent erred when filling in a section of the form that talked about his recent travel history. The declaration stated that he had not travelled in the 14 days before his arrival in Australia. However, it was later confirmed that Djokovic had travelled to Serbia and then to Spain before landing in Australia.

Also read: France sports minister says Djokovic won’t face trouble playing French Open

“My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box…This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” said Djokovic in his Instagram post.

He, however, denied attending two events – the unveiling of a Djokovic stamp and an awards ceremony that was attended by children – while infected with COVID.

The Australian Open begins in a week’s time. If Djokovic wins here, it would be his 21st grand slam, making the Serb the most successful male tennis player in the history of the game.

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