Tennis star Novak Djokovic has admitted there were mistakes on his immigration forms and to meeting a journalist despite testing positive for Covid, as Australia mulls deporting him.
Djokovic made the comments in an Instagram post in order to clear up “ongoing misinformation” about his movements.
The world number one in men’s tennis hopes to compete in the Australian Open next week.
However, his participation has been overshadowed by a visa dispute.
Djokovic’s visa was revoked on 6 January, shortly after he arrived in Australia, amid concerns about the vaccine exemption that would have allowed him to enter.
On Monday, however, a judge dramatically overturned the decision and ordered the release of the player from detention.
But the government has not ruled out further action – and the possibility remains that the country’s immigration minister could cancel his visa for a second time just days before the tournament begins.
Alex Hawke could cancel the visa based on prior Covid infections not counting as an exemption. But Djokovic’s visa could also be cancelled on “character grounds” based on an investigation into his arrival form and potential breaches of Serbia’s Covid rules.
If Djokovic wins his 21st grand slam, he will become the most successful male tennis player in history.
Djokovic said in an Instagram post that he went ahead with the interview, titled L’Equipe in French, because he “didn’t want to let the journalist down.”
“I made certain that I was socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he explained.
In an article, L’Equipe confirmed that the tennis star wore a mask the entire time, even when their reporter asked him to remove it for five minutes.
The journalist, Franck Ramella, said that he had been told not to ask Djokovic about his vaccination status or the upcoming Australian Open so “therefore did not ask if he had considered doing a test“.
“Even if we did ask, what would be the point?” Mr Ramella wrote.
Djokovic also admitted to making a false declaration on his travel form prior to entering Australia and stated that his team has provided authorities with additional information.
He claimed that his agent made an error when filling out a section of the form that covered his recent travel history. According to the form, he had not travelled in the 14 days preceding his arrival in Australia.
However, according to recent reports, the 34-year-old had previously visited Serbia and Spain.
“My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative error in ticking the wrong box,” he wrote. “This was a human error, and it was most emphatically not deliberate.”
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The tennis star claimed he had no idea he had Covid until he attended two events: the unveiling of a Djokovic stamp and an awards ceremony attended by children.
He wrote on Instagram that he had taken a PCR test on December 16 after attending a basketball game two days before, where several people later tested positive.
Djokovic stated that he had a rapid antigen test prior to both events and was only notified that his PCR was positive after attending the awards ceremony on December 17th.
Australia’s Border Force, the country’s immigration officials, said on Tuesday that they were looking into whether he had made a “false declaration,” which could result in visa cancellation.
The men’s professional tennis tour has urged players to get vaccinated and for more clarity on the rules for entering Australia.
Every time something new about the Djokovic saga is revealed, it appears that the storey becomes less clear. This morning, I was watching Novak Djokovic train. And everyone’s phone lit up just a few minutes after we left the court.
Djokovic addressed two issues in his statement.
The first is about his infection with Covid19. While admitting he violated isolation rules has no bearing on his deportation chances, it doesn’t look good.
For Australians who have had to deal with some of the strictest Covid19 rules in the world, this is a world-famous athlete who has publicly stated his opposition to vaccination and has now revealed that he violated isolation rules while infected.
The other major admission is that he provided incorrect information in his travel declaration document.
Djokovic called it a “human error,” but will border officials believe him? We know they’re looking into additional information provided by Novak’s team right now.
The Australian Open begins in a few days, and it’s still unclear whether he’ll be able to defend his title.