Novak Djokovic gets a COVID vaccine at the men’s tennis world number one medical exemption Entering Australia because he contracted the disease last month, his lawyers have argued in court documents.
Djokovic was denied entry at Melbourne Airport after border officials canceled his visa because he did not meet his entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a court file Saturday before a trial Monday over his visa cancellation, Djokovic said he had received the release from tournament organizer Tennis Australia, with a follow-up letter from the Home Office saying he was being admitted into the country.
The Serbian player, who hopes to win his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open later this month, is in immigration detention in Melbourne on his third day – a case that has caused a sporting, political and diplomatic uproar.
Djokovic, an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates, was locked up in a modest hotel after his visa was canceled due to problems with the medical exemption of the country’s immigration requirement for coronavirus vaccination he offered.
The drama caused tensions between Serbia and Australia and also became a flashpoint for opponents of vaccine mandates around the world.
“I explained that I was recently infected with COVID in December 2021 and on that basis I was entitled to a medical exemption in accordance with the Australian Government’s rules and guidelines,” Djokovic was quoted as saying in court on his experience with Melbourne Airport.
Djokovic said he had told Australian Border Force officers: “I have made my Australian Travel Statement correct and otherwise meet all the necessary requirements to enter Australia legally on my visa.”
Djokovic returned his first positive COVID-19 test on December 16, but by December 30, “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 for the past 72 hours,” the filing reads.
On January 1, it said, he had received a Home Affairs document telling him that his answers indicated that he had met “the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival in Australia”.
The federal court has ordered Home Affairs to file its response by Sunday. The Australian Open starts on 17 January.
Meanwhile, on December 14, Djokovic attended a Euroleague basketball game between Red Star and Barcelona in a packed sports hall in Belgrade. He was taken down while embracing several players from both teams, including some who tested positive shortly thereafter.
The Belgrade Tennis Federation reported in a Facebook post after the December 17 ceremony that Djokovic handed over cups and awards in 2021 to the best young players.
The event, which was held at the Novak Tennis Center in the Serbian capital, was attended only by the prize winners “due to epidemiological measures related to the coronavirus pandemic”, reads the federation statement.
It was accompanied by several photos of Djokovic, posing with federation officials and about 20 young players holding trophies and awards.
No one wore a mask.
Djokovic attended another rally on December 16, when the Serbian National Postal Service honored him by launching a series of stamps showcasing him and his sporting achievements.
On December 17, he posted a photo of the ceremony on Instagram.
Many countries allow a recent COVID infection as a reason for a release of vaccine requirements. Australia’s federal government released a letter shortly after Djokovic arrived showing that he had informed Tennis Australia that this was not necessarily the case in the country.
The federal and Victorian state governments and Tennis Australia have denied responsibility for the dispute.
Djokovic’s court ruling confirmed a media report that he had asked to be moved to lodges with access to a tennis court, but that his request had been denied. The Park Hotel, where he resides, is also home to dozens of asylum seekers trying to enter the country.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the player was provided with gluten-free food, exercise equipment and a SIM card.
“He will stay in Park Hotel until the final decision is made,” Brnabic told Serbian media.
“We managed to make sure that gluten-free food was delivered to him, as well as training tools, a laptop and a SIM card so that he could be in contact with his family.”
“This is a positive tone from the Australian side. The Serbian government is ready to provide all the guarantees needed for Novak to be allowed to enter Australia, the Serbian president [Aleksandar Vucic] is also involved, ”Brnabic said.
Djokovic’s filing said he expressed “shock”, “surprise” and “confusion” when detained overnight, and had a bed prepared near his airport maintenance room so he could rest while waiting until the morning when he will be able to achieve legally. representatives and Tennis Australia, reads the filing.
Customs officials finally “pressed” Djokovic to conduct an interview before speaking to one of them, the filing reads.
Tennis Australia has said it has never knowingly deceived players and has always encouraged players to be vaccinated, after News Corp newspapers published a document from the organizing body apparently advising players on ways to enter the country with a medical exemption from vaccination.
“We have always been consistent in our communication to players that vaccination is the best way of action – not only as the right thing to do to protect themselves and others, but also as the best way of action to ensure that they can arrive in Australia, ”Tennis Australia said in a statement quoted by local media.
“We completely reject that the playgroup was deliberately deceived.”
Tennis Australia’s advice is based on the content of a federal government website to which the federal health minister referred, the statement added.
Meanwhile, Czech player Renata Voracova, who was also detained in the same hotel as Djokovic and had her visa revoked after issues with her release, was seen on Saturday by reporters leaving the hotel in a van.
Her destination was not immediately clear, but she had earlier told Czech media she was still waiting to leave the country after deciding not to appeal against the decision.