Tennis star Novak Djokovic had a vaccine exemption to enter Australia after a Covid infection on 16 December, his lawyers say in court documents.
After arriving in Melbourne this week to compete in the Australian Open, Djokovic was denied entry.
The world’s top tennis player is currently being held in an immigration detention centre in preparation for a court appearance on Monday.
His case sparked widespread outrage in Australia and made headlines around the world.
Djokovic, 34, who has stated his opposition to vaccination, was granted a medical exemption to compete in the tournament, infuriating many ordinary Australians.
However, upon arrival, the Serbian was abruptly denied entry.
According to Australian Border Force (ABF) officials, the player “failed to provide appropriate evidence” at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday because a prior infection was not a valid reason to enter without a vaccination.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison later confirmed that this was the case under federal rules, despite a state government exemption.
In court documents released on Saturday, Djokovic’s lawyers said the player had been granted a temporary visa to enter the country and provided with a “medical exemption from Covid vaccination” by Tennis Australia because of his recent infection.
An exemption certificate stated that 14 days after testing positive on December 16, the player “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours,” according to the documents.
There had been no prior notification of his infection.
On December 17, Djokovic shared images of his maskless appearance at a ceremony where he was honoured with his own Serbian postage stamps in recognition of his achievements on Twitter.
It’s unclear whether he was aware he had Covid at the time the photos were taken.
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Djokovic’s medical exemption certificate was given by two independent medical panels organised by Tennis Australia, the body that runs the event, and the state of Victoria.
His lawyers said he was kept in immigration clearance at Melbourne Airport for about eight hours after he arrived, and that he had little communication with them during that period.
They have also asked that Djokovic, who remains in an immigration detention hotel that has often been criticised by refugees for its poor conditions, be moved to “a more suitable place of detention” that would allow him to train ahead of the Australian Open.
Meanwhile another player, Renata Voracova from the Czech Republic, has also had her Australian visa cancelled despite proof of having Covid before Christmas, the Czech government said.
Voracova is being held at the same immigration detention hotel as Djokovic, the Park Hotel, and has described the environment as “like being in prison.”
“I can’t say they were mean to me,” she told the Czech news website Idnes, “but I wasn’t prepared for how everything played out… you have to report and everything is allotted.”
Australia’s pandemic border rules prohibit foreigners from entering the country unless they are either double vaccinated or have a medical exemption from receiving the vaccines.
While foreigners who apply for a visa online can fly into Australia, they must still clear immigration customs upon arrival at the airport.
The Australian Open begins on 17 January in Melbourne.