Djokovic admits ‘mistakes’ as he struggles to avoid deportation from Australia

Novak Djokovic has admitted to making «mistakes» in his travel papers and not being isolated after contracting the alleged coronavirus, as he struggles to survive in Australia and fight for a Grand Slam record.

The world number one said that his team has provided new information to the Australian government, which is considering whether to cancel his visa again and expel him from the country.

«We live in difficult times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can make,» the 34-year-old said in a statement issued while practicing at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday.

The Serbian star flew to Melbourne a week ago demanding a vaccine exemption due to a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result on December 16.

Border guards refused to excuse him, saying a recent injury did not qualify, tore up his visa and put him in a detention center.

But Djokovic’s senior legal team, who is skeptical about the vaccine, largely overruled the visa’s decision in court on Monday over a procedural issue related to his meeting at the airport.

Now, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says he is considering canceling the visa again, with new doubts emerging.

In an update to Australian media, his spokesperson acknowledged receiving «additional lengthy requests» from the player’s lawyer.

«Of course, this will affect the time frame for a decision,» he said.

«Error of judgment»

Djokovic, the nine-times Australian Open champion, described reports of his post-injury outings in Serbia as «misinformation».

The day after his alleged positive test in Serbia, Djokovic appeared at a youth tennis event and at a ceremony to honor him with stamps bearing his picture, both apparently without a mask.

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Djokovic, who did not mention the stamp ceremony, said he only received the result of a PCR test after attending a children’s tennis event.

But he admitted that he also went on to give an interview and take pictures with French sports newspaper L’Equipe on December 18.

«I felt compelled to go ahead and do the L’Equipe interview because I didn’t want to give up on the journalist but made sure I distancing socially and only wore a mask when my picture was taken,» he said.

«On reflection, this was an error of judgment and I agree that I should have rescheduled this commitment.»

The player said he also had two rapid antigen tests, both of which came back negative: one on December 16 when he was first suspected and another on December 17 before attending a children’s tennis event.

The tennis player also admitted an error on his Australian travel permit, where a box was ticked indicating that he had not or would not travel in the 14 days leading up to his trip to Melbourne.

In fact, social media posts and reports show that he traveled from Serbia to Spain during that time.

«This was brought up by my support team on my behalf,» Djokovic said.

“My agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative error in checking the incorrect box about my previous travel prior to my coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not intentional.”

In another development, Australian media extracted, on Wednesday, what was reported by the German newspaper Der Siegel, which cast doubt on the tennis star’s positive test result.

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Der Spiegel said it scanned a QR code on Djokovic’s Serbian PCR test, which he said gave a negative result, to change to a positive one hour later.

It was not possible to independently verify the Der Spiegel story, and Djokovic did not mention those specific issues on Wednesday.

«a little embarrassing»

Djokovic’s Instagram post appeared to be intended to influence the government to allow him to remain in Australia.

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Prominent immigration attorney Christopher Livingston said the government could cancel Djokovic’s visa on narrow criminal grounds, for example, because the travel permit was incorrectly completed.

But the Minister of Immigration may also cancel the visa for reasons of a broader nature.

Livingstone said that if Djokovic knowingly evaded Serbia’s quarantine requirements for positive cases, he could be judged to pose a risk of potentially non-compliance with public health orders while in Australia.

Various options for appeal will be open to both Djokovic and the government, but at the end of the day, the immigration minister can exercise his personal power to cancel the visa.

Many Australians, who have endured nearly two years of ongoing travel bans, restrictions and lockdowns, were enraged when they learned that Djokovic had been exempted from a vaccine.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government, which faces a general election by May, has also been criticized for its handling of the issue.

Outside Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, 27-year-old Sim Muthia said everyone should follow the same rules for a Covid-19 vaccine.

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«I think it’s a bit embarrassing,» Muthia added. «The government made some mistakes, too.»

Djokovic’s visa ban was only rescinded after the government admitted it had acted unreasonably by not giving him the promised time to present his case at the airport.

Since then, Djokovic’s Covid-19 testing and actions before he landed in Australia have been subject to more media scrutiny.

© AFP 2022

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