Djokovic tested positive for Covid-19 in December, lawyers say in court papers

A Novak Djokovic fan stands in front of his hotel in Melbourne, Australia, January 7 2022. © Loren Elliott, Reuters

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic contracted Covid-19 last month but was not experiencing symptoms and had written clearance from Australia's immigration department before travelling to the country with a medical exemption from its vaccination rules, his lawyers said in a court filing on Saturday.

Djokovic, who is in immigration detention in Australia after having his visa cancelled on arrival on Thursday, returned his first positive coronavirus test on December 16, 2021, but 14 days later "had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours", the filing said.

On January 1, the Serbian sports star received a "a document from the Department of Home Affairs (which) told Mr Djokovic that his 'responses indicate(d) that (he met) the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia", the documents added.

Djokovic, an outspoken critic of mandatory vaccination, has never disclosed his own vaccination status. He is challenging his visa cancellation in Australia's federal court in hopes of winning his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open which starts on January 17.

Djokovic attended at a young players event in Belgrade on December 17, the day after he has now reported he tested positive, and without wearing a mask.

The Belgrade tennis federation, in a Facebook post after the December 17 ceremony, reported that Djokovic had handed over cups and awards to best young players in 2021.

The event, held at the Novak tennis centre in the Serbian capital, was attended only by the award winners "due to epidemiological measures related to the coronavirus pandemic", said the federation statement.

It was accompanied with several photos of Djokovic, posing with the federation's officials and some 20 young players holding cups and awards.

At the ceremony, the federation head Milan Slavkovic presented Djokovic with an Orthodox icon for "all he has done for tennis and sports in general, for all achievements and generosity he is making every day throughout the planet", the statement said.

The event was widely reported in the Serbian media.

Djokovic attended another gathering on December 16, when the Serbia national postal service honoured him by launching a series of stamps featuring him and his sports achievements.

He published a photo from the ceremony on Instagram on December 17.

Australian border agents tore up Djokovic's entry visa for failing to meet the country's tough Covid-19 vaccine requirements when he landed in Melbourne on Wednesday.

'Unbelievable job'

Australia's tennis chief boasted in an internal video leaked Saturday of his team's "unbelievable job" despite a visa crisis engulfing the men's world number one, Novak Djokovic.

"There is a lot finger pointing going on... but I can assure you our team has done an unbelievable job," he said in a video published by the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper.

The Tennis Australia boss said his organisation had chosen not to address the issue in public because of Djokovic's lawsuit, but his team had done "everything they possibly could".

Tennis Australia has been accused of misleading players in a memo, which advised them that a recent Covid-19 infection was grounds for a temporary medical exemption from vaccination.

But Australia's government said that advice was only valid for Australian residents, not for foreign nationals trying to enter the country.

It added that the health minister warned Tennis Australia of this in November.

Foreigners mostly banned

Czech women's tennis player Renata Voracova flew out of Melbourne airport on Saturday after her visa was cancelled over her Covid-19 vaccine status, a government source said.

Voracova, 38, had been detained in the same immigration centre as Djokovic.

Foreigners are still mostly banned from travel to Australia, and those granted entry must be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption.

Djokovic's father Srdjan told a crowd in Belgrade on Friday his son was the victim of a "political witch hunt".

His son's detention has sparked international scrutiny, with the Serbian government demanding explanations.

"Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but was treated that way by the Australian authorities which causes an understandable indignation of his fans and citizens of Serbia," a foreign ministry statement said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended revoking Djokovic's visa.

"Rules are rules and there are no special cases," he said.

Judge Anthony Kelly warned the star's lawyers in a hearing Thursday that justice would move at its own pace through all necessary appeals.

"The tail won't be wagging the dog here," he said.


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