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Djokovic battles ‘misinformation’ in bombshell Twitter post, as countries investigate his whereabouts, claims

Jay Shine

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Novak Djokovic on the stretch during his semi-final with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Day 11 of Wimbledon 2011. Photo by Carine06 on Flickr.

In a 6 page Twitter post, embattled tennis player Novak Djokovic attempted to set the record straight on his whereabouts after testing positive for Covid-19 last month — admitting to breaking self-quarantine and blaming his agent for an error on his Australian travel declaration form — as authorities in Australia and Serbia investigate his claims.

“I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations,” he wrote.

The tennis star has been in Melbourne since January 5 in hopes of defending his title at the Australian Open, which is set to begin next Monday. But he faced the threat of deportation when Australian immigration officers determined he had an invalid medical exemption for Covid-19 vaccination and revoked his visa. He then spent the next four days in an immigration detention facility until Monday, when a federal judge ruled in his favour to reinstate his visa, allowing him to legally enter the country and participate in the tennis tournament.

But the drama continues with a revelation of a series of unforced errors, prompting three countries to reportedly investigate the veracity of Djokovic’s statements and whereabouts from the time of his positive PCR test on December 16 to his arrival in Melbourne last week.

New questions have arisen regarding his travel declaration form upon entry to Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The government has been deliberating over the details of his case, including an error in his travel declaration form, on which a box was checked stating he had not travelled to any other country in the 14 days prior to his arrival.

In fact, Djokovic had traveled from Belgrade, Serbia, to Marbella, Spain, on December 31 to train at Soto Tennis Academy on a courts with the same surface as the tournament at Melbourne Park — as documented in a December 31 post on social media.

“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf as I told immigration officials on my arrival,” he tweeted, “and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.”

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still holds the power to call foul ball again and deport the beleaguered tennis star. But this possibility seems increasingly unlikely with three days having passed since the judge’s ruling and the tennis tournament now just days away.

Spanish news outlet COPE reported that the Spanish government was also investigating whether the Serbian tennis player entered Spain illegally as an unvaccinated Serbian tourist in late December. But in an interview with POLITICO, a representative for the interior ministry of Spain denied the claims.

“The news is false,” the unnamed source told POLITICO. “Neither the government has ordered it nor is there any police investigation open on the athlete.”

New Spanish immigration regulations from September last year states that Serbian residents must have either a certificate of being fully vaccinated or a special authorization before entering the country. In 2020, Djokovic reportedly bought a house in the Marbella, which may qualify him as a legal resident, thereby subjecting him to more lenient immigration rules regarding Covid-19 vaccination.

Meanwhile, the World No. 1 tennis player is facing significant scrutiny online about his whereabouts after testing positive for Covid-19 after a PCR test on December 16.

“This is misinformation which needs to be corrected,” Djokovic wrote.

Back home, Serbia is also investigating his admission to having attended a “long standing commitment” after receiving a positive PCR test result for Covid-19 last month, an act that violates the country’s Covid-19 protocols, the Guardian reports. His carelessness could see the national hero receiving a symbolic slap on the wrist when he returns home to appease the booing international crowd, without provoking his proud domestic fanbase.

In what he called an “error in judgment,” Djokovic admitted to attending an in-person interview and photoshoot the next day for the French sports publication L’Equipe, while knowingly infected, though he asserts he strictly followed safety measures including wearing a mask and social distancing.

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

However, in his recent tweet, the 34 year old tennis star failed to mention his appearance at an earlier event on December 16 — the day he tested positive for the virus — to celebrate the unveiling of two Serbian stamps in his honour. Pictures posted on his Twitter account the next day show Djokovic accepting the framed stamps, and touring a museum with his wife and others — none of whom is wearing a mask or appears to be social distancing. It’s unclear whether Djokovic knew he was positive for Covid-19 before attending that event.

The next day he attended a tennis event in Belgrade — again not wearing a mask — to hand out awards to young players. He claims he was unaware of his positive PCR test result from the previous day until after the event. If that’s true, then 24 hours would have elapsed from when he tested positive for Covid-19 to when he attended the awards ceremony, France24 reported.

The Serbian’s lengthy Twitter post is the latest defensive maneuver in his ongoing match with the authorities, as he attempts to set the record straight and cling on to his revalidated visa status — with the hope of winning a record 10th Australian Open and a historic 21st grand slam title.

But with the unforced errors mounting up against him, the world is watching to see whether the top men’s tennis player will emerge victorious against the authorities in time to play his first match against compatriot Miomir Kecmanović on the tennis court on Monday.

Read the full text of Djokovic’s tweet below:

I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result.

This is misinformation which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family.

I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations.

I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on 14 December after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with COVID 19. Despite having no COVID symptoms, I took a rapid antigen test on 16 December which was negative, and out of an abundance of caution, also took an official and approved PCR test on that same day.

The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative.

I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.

The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long standing commitment for a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L’Equipe interview.

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.

While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.

On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf as I told immigration officials on my arrival – and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.

While I felt it was important to address and clarify misinformation I will not be making any further comment out of utmost respect for the Australian Government and their authorities and the current process.

It is always an honour and a privilege to play in the Australian Open. The Australian Open is much-loved by players, fans and the community, not just in Victoria and in Australia, but around the globe, and I just want to have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and perform before one of the best crowds in the world.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that 3 countries were investigating Djokovic’s whereabouts and claims, including Spain. While the Spanish government has yet to make an official statement on the matter, we have updated our article in light of new information.

Sources: COPE | Herald Sun | Yahoo Sports Australia | the Guardian | SMH | POLITICO | France24

 

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A longtime expat in Asia with a degree in journalism and creative writing. Highlights include writing for Condé Nast Traveller and Apple Music. In his spare time, Jay enjoys writing poetry, brewing traditional Chinese tea and lounging with his calico soi cat, Almond.

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