Djokovic admits ‘errors’ as he fights to avoid Australian deportation

Australian tennis fans react after world number one Novak Djokovic won a legal battle against the cancellation of his visa. Duration: 00:49

Novak Djokovic on Wednesday admitted “errors” in his travel papers and to meeting a journalist after a claimed coronavirus infection, as he battled to stay in Australia and fight for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

The men’s world number one made the admission in an Instagram post as attention focused on his movements before he flew to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

“We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur,” the unvaccinated 34-year-old said in a statement released as he practised on the courts of the Open, which starts Monday.

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Border agents rejected his exemption saying a recent infection was an insufficient reason, tore up his visa and placed him in a detention centre.

Now, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says he is considering cancelling the visa another time, as fresh doubts emerge about Djokovic’s travels in the two weeks before he arrived in Australia.

“Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision,” he said.

Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, described reports about his post-infection outings in Serbia as “misinformation”.

Djokovic, who made no mention of the stamp ceremony, said he only received the PCR test result after attending the children’s tennis event.

“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he said.

The journalist who carried out the L’Equipe interview, Franck Ramella, said Djokovic’s representatives had told him not to ask about Covid-19 vaccinations.

The reporter said he had been unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was Covid-positive.

The tennis ace also 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 flying to Melbourne.

“This was submitted by my support team on my behalf,” Djokovic said.

In another twist, Australian media on Wednesday seized on reporting by Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper that cast doubt over Djokovic’s positive test.

It was not possible to independently verify the Der Spiegel story.

Djokovic’s Instagram post appeared to be aimed at swaying the Australian government to let him stay.

But the immigration minister may also annul the visa on broader character grounds.

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

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government, which faces a general election by May, has been criticised over its handling of the affair.

Since then, Djokovic’s Covid-19 test and his actions before touching down in Australia have come under greater media scrutiny.

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