Djokovic says sorry for botched visa form and going out after positive PCR test

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic has apologised for mistakes in his visa travel documents and for not isolating after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old Serb said sorry after revealing that his legal team had given incorrect information to the Australian government as it considers whether to cancel his visa for a second time and eject him from the country.

"We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur," said Djokovic in a statement released as he practiced on the courts at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

Djokovic arrived at Melbourne airport a week ago armed with a vaccine exemption certificate because of a positive PCR test result on December 16.

Border agents rejected his exemption saying a recent infection did not qualify him to enter the country.

They cancelled his visa and placed him in a detention centre in Melbourne while his lawyers appealed against the decision.

On Monday, the federal circuit judge Anthony Kelly overturned the government's ruling and ordered Djokovic's release. Kelly said the player had not been treated fairly during his interviews at the airport.


However, the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, can still cancel the visa.

His spokesperson said on Wednesday: "The minister has received lengthy further submissions from Mr Djokovic's lawyers and naturally this will affect the time frame for a decision."

Djokovic admitted a mistake on his Australian travel declaration, in which a box was ticked indicating that he had not, or would not, travel in the 14 days before taking his flight to Melbourne.

But social media posts and reports show Djokovic flew from Serbia to Spain during that period.

"This [form] was submitted by my support team on my behalf," Djokovic said. "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."


Djokovic, who is hoping to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown and a record 21st Grand Slam singles title to surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, also said he wanted to clarify what he described as misinformation about his movements as he discovered he had contracted the coronavirus..

He said he only received the PCR test result after attending a children's tennis event in Belgrade on 17 December.

On 16 December - the day of his positive test in Serbia - he appeared at a ceremony to honour him with stamps bearing his image.

He admitted to an error of judgment when he proceeded with an interview and photoshoot with the French sports newspaper L'Equipe on 18 December while aware he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

'Error of judgment'

"I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L'Equipe interview as I didn't want to let the journalist down," Djokovic said.

"But I did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken," he said.

"On reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment."

Djokovic is likely to face a hostile reception when he plays at Melbourne Park.

Many Australians, who have endured nearly two years of travel bans, restrictions and rolling lockdowns, were angered when they learned of Djokovic's vaccine exemption.

The government of Scott Morrison's government, which faces a general election by May, has also been criticised over its handling of the visa dispute.

It has led to a diplomatic spat between Serbia and Australia and brought adverse publicity to the tennis season's opening Grand Slam event..


In September at the US Open Djokovic failed in his bid to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win at all four Grand Slam venues in the same calendar year when he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic will start the Australian Open as top seed. Medvedev will launch his campaigh for a second consecutive Grand Slam title as second seed.

Ashleigh Barty will begin her quest to become the first homegrown women's sicngles champion since Christine McNeil in 1978 as top seed.

Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus has been seeded second.

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