MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Novak Djokovic knew he had tested positive for COVID-19 when he attended a newspaper interview and photo shoot at his tennis center in Serbia last month, saying on Wednesday he had made a “error of judgment” and should have acted immediately. gone isolation.
Djokovic has moved to clarify “constant misinformation” about his movements while contagious last month and errors on the travel document he used to enter Australia, where his visa was revoked and then reinstated in a COVID-19 vaccination saga that has overshadowed the days leading up to the Australian Open.
A statement was posted on Djokovic’s social media accounts as the men’s tennis number 1 held a practice session against Tristan Schoolkate, a 20-year-old Australian, at the Rod Laver Arena.
The nine-time and defending Australian Open champion is in limbo before the first tennis major of the year kicks off next Monday, a week after he won a legal battle that allowed him to stay in the country.
But he still faces the prospect of deportation for not having been vaccinated against COVID-19, a decision taken at the sole discretion of the Australian Immigration Minister if deemed in the public interest.
Reports emerged that Djokovic attended events in his native Serbia last month after testing positive on December 16, including presenting prizes to children on December 17. There has also been speculation that mistakes on his immigration form could lead to the cancellation of his visa.
On the form, Djokovic said he had not traveled for 14 days before his flight to Australia. The athlete from Monte Carlo was seen in Spain and Serbia during that two-week period.
Djokovic on Wednesday described the speculation as “hurtful” and said he wanted to address it in the interest “of allaying wider community concerns about my presence in Australia”.
Djokovic said he had taken rapid tests that were negative and that he was asymptomatic in the days before receiving his positive result from an approved PRC test he undertook out of “abundant caution” after attending a December 14 basketball game “where it was reported that a number of people tested positive.”
He received the result at the end of December 17, saying that he had canceled all his obligations, except for the lengthy interview with L’Equipe.
“I felt compelled to continue… but made sure to maintain social distancing and wear a mask, except when my photo was taken,” Djokovic said in the statement. “While I went home after the interview to isolate the required period, on reflection this was an error of judgment and accept that I should have reschedule the commitment.”
He responded to the travel report by saying that it was submitted on his behalf by his support team and that “my agent sincerely apologizes for the clerical error in ticking the wrong box.”
“This was human error and certainly not intentional,” he wrote. “The team has provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify this matter.”
It is questionable whether he has a valid exemption from the rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19.
The decision may take a while. The office of Immigration Secretary Alex Hawke issued a statement saying that Djokovic’s legal team has filed further documents against the possible cancellation of his visa, adding: “Of course this will affect the timetable for a decision.”
Meanwhile, there is growing concern in the community as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.
The state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is hosting the Australian Open starting next week, reported 21 deaths and 40,127 new cases on Wednesday.
Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino said the state’s health care system is under pressure, with about 6,600 workers out of work after testing positive or coming into close contact with a positive case, and new pandemic orders are coming into effect to make booster shots mandatory. for critical employees.
Hobart, Australian immigration attorney Greg Barnes, told The Associated Press that if Hawke takes action, he could choose to simply cancel Djokovic’s visa or notify the tennis star of his intention to cancel it.
Barnes said Hawke has “a personal power,” meaning he won’t have to grant natural justice if he decides it’s in the public interest to revoke the visa.
If Djokovic’s visa is revoked, his lawyers could go back to court to request a ban to avoid being forced to leave the country.
Hawke “can go the natural justice route (but) he doesn’t have to comply with natural justice, so he can just cancel it,” Barnes said. “Then you have to go to court to try and get that set aside and that’s very difficult.”
If the government issues a letter of intent, Barnes said it could give Djokovic five to nine days to respond, depending on when he receives it.
“That could be a way to give Djokovic a chance in the tournament and kick him out at the end of it,” Barnes said. “In my experience, it’s relatively rare for them to change their mind.”
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.