Djokovic admits to COVID-19 misbehaviour

January 13, 2022
Reigning men’s champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic practises on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.
Reigning men’s champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic practises on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

Novak Djokovic acknowledged yesterday that his Australian travel declaration form contained incorrect information, and he also confessed to an "error of judgement" in taking part in an interview and photo shoot in Serbia last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

In a statement posted to his social media accounts, the tennis star blamed "human error" by his support team for failing to declare that he had travelled in the two-week period before entering Australia.

Giving false information on the form could be grounds for deportation, the latest twist in a saga over whether the athlete should be allowed stay in Australia despite not being vaccinated. The initial news that Djokovic was granted an exemption to strict vaccination rules to enter the country provoked an outcry and the ensuing dispute has since overshadowed the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Djokovic acknowledged the lapses when he sought to clarify what he called "continuing misinformation" about his movements after he became infected last month - though he did not spell out what inaccuracies he was referring to.

The statement was posted while the men's tennis No. 1 was in Rod Laver Arena holding a practice session, his third on the tournament's main court since being released from four nights in immigration detention.

The nine-time and defending Australian Open champion remains in limbo before the year's first tennis major starts Monday. The stakes are particularly high since he is seeking a men's record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

His visa was cancelled on arrival last week when his vaccination exemption was questioned, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country. He still faces the prospect of deportation - a decision that is entirely at the discretion of Australia's immigration minister if deemed to be in the public interest for health and safety reasons.

Deportation could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

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