Djokovic loses in court : live updates on the Djoko-fiasco

Novak Djokovic has been defeated in court and the World No 1 will be removed from the Australian Open draw as he awaits deportation.


Since Tuesday last week – and really for much of the past month or so – the world of tennis has been living with the rhythm of an increasingly crazy tension around an issue that has agitated it most of all for the past two months; the participation, or not, of Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open. Here are live updates:

LIVE : A final decision has been made, Djokovic lost

Novak Djokovic has lost his “application” against the Australian Federal government. The world No 1’s last-ditch attempt to play the Australian Open has been shut down as the nine-time champion lost his case on Sunday. The three judges – Justice Allsop, Justice Besanko and Justice O’Callaghan of the Federal Court of Australia – voted unanimously to uphold the decision of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

Said Justice Allsop: “To be clear this is not an appeal against the decision of the executive government, it is an application to the court as a separate arm of government. … to review the decision of the minister for the lawfulness or legality of the decision on the three grounds put forward.

“These grounds focused on whether the decision was, for different reasons, irrational or legally unreasonable. It is no part of the function of the court to decide upon the merit or wisdom of the decision.”

Reasons, said Justice Allsop, are to be published at a later date.

After a brief adjournment, it was reported that Djokovic’s team is not considering any further legal action. The Serbe left Australia the same day at 10:30 pm and was seen at the airport with a smile.

Novak Djokovic, Melbourne airport, 2022
© AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Djokovic’s statement: “Extremely disappointed”

Shortly after the decision a statement from Djokovic was released.

“I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing,” Djokovic said. “I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.

“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open. I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country. I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.”

Sunday update : It is in the Judge’s hands now

Mr. Stephen Lloyd finished making points on the government’s behalf after the court resumed. He pointed out that Djokovic is seen as threatening to Australia’s “good order” and it’s ability to control the pandemic, specifically in regard to the way the government believes that Djokovic might influence others and incite anti-vaccination sentiments.

“Rightly or wrongly, he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and that his presence is perceived to contribute that and foster further sentiment,” Lloyd said. “We say that the known facts, the facts of Mr Djokovic’s views or perceived views, knowledge of his perceived views, and historical views … in combination with his status and presence could be seen to contribute significantly to those issues, and that’s all that’s required to make the inference the Minister made.”

Mr. Wood was then allowed to make final remarks before the court was adjourned.

Both sides have said their piece in two sessions that lasted approximately four hours. Now it is up to the presiding trio of judges to make their decision. The judges are clearly aware of the tight time frame that they need to operate in, with the tournament starting tomorrow, but made no promises regarding the timing of a decision, even stating that it is possible that it wouldn’t come today.

Sunday update : Both sides speak, and Djokovic’s hearing adjourns for Lunch

Lawyers for Novak Djokovic and the Australian government both spoke on Sunday, laying out their arguments for and against Alex Hawke’s decision to revoke Djokovic’s passport for the second time (on Friday evening). Djokovic’s lead lawyer, Mr. Nick Wood, spoke for about two hours and finished his remarks. Then Mr. Stephen Lloyd spoke for nearly an hour before the court adjourned for lunch. Mr. Lloyd will continue his remarks after lunch.

Both made their case to the three judges around the same premise: trying to prove or disprove Hawke’s decision that Djokovic would be a menace to the “good order” of Australia due to his anti-vaccination sentiments.

Mr. Wood argued that expelling Djokovic from the country might actually incite anti-vaccination sentiment, rather than quell it.

“We contend the Minister did not consider the obvious alternative scenario,” he said. “The possibility that [Mr Djokovic’s] visa might be cancelled, [he is] expelled from the country and impaired in his career generally … it’s quite obvious that in itself may generate anti-vax sentiment.”

Mr. Lloyd pointed out the opposite:

“The concern is he is a high-profile person who is in many respects a role model for many people so that his presence in Australia would present, more strongly and more currently to Australians, his anti-vax views,” he said.

There is a possibility that a final decision on the matter will be given by the end of day.

The latest: hearing scheduled for Sunday at 0930 Melbourne time, Djokovic back in detention, but his team has been granted a full bench at Sunday’s hearing

As of 1855 Melbourne time, the Age reports that Djokovic’s case will be heard by a full court on Sunday. This means that the matter would be heard by Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan. A full bench was not desired by the government’s lawyers, because it would remove both parties’ right to appeal the result granted at the hearing.

Djokovic back in detention at the Park Hotel

With his hearing set for tomorrow morning, Novak Djokovic was spotted heading back to the Park Hotel where he is once again being detained.

Djokovic’s team of lawyers prepares their case for Sunday’s hearing

After a brief administrative hearing on Saturday, all parties agreed to the hearing going ahead tomorrow at 9.30 AM Melbourne time.

The affidavit prepared and produced by Djokovic’s team has been made public, it is a 268-page document which outlines their plans to attack the ruling by immigration minister Alex Hawke, the key claim of which is that Djokovic’s anti-vaccination views represent grounds for visa cancellation. Djokovic’s lawyers have made reference to polls posted in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, which point to public support for Djokovic, as well as an online petition that has 83,000 signatures.

Read the full document.

A sample of the prepared remarks from Djokovic’s team:

“There is vocal support in Australia and abroad for Mr Djokovic to remain in Australia and play in the Australian Open 2022. For example:

(a) an online poll from the Age shows support for Mr Djokovic remaining in Australia at 60 percent; and
(b) an online petition for Mr Djokovic to be freed to play in the Australian Open has gathered over 83,000 signatures (at the time of this letter).

“There are several matters that would go against the public interest if the Australian Government were to make a second attempt to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa. First, that action would be likely to (further) adversely affect Australia’s global reputation, and call into question Australia’s border security principles and policies – and indeed the rule of law in Australia generally.

“Secondly, that action would prejudice Australian economic interests, and jeopardise the viability of Australia continuing to host this prestigious, international sporting event. Thirdly, that action would create the appearance of politically motivated decision-making. Cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa and deporting him would plainly be adverse to the public interest, and respectfully, could only serve political interests.”

Live updates: Procedural hearing on air in the Federal Court

Justice David O’Callaghan is about to hold a procedural hearing in the Federal Cout over Novak Djokovic’s visa cancellation and deportation. It’s scheduled live on this YouTube Channel. The final hearing is still planned for Sunday.

Live reports: Djokovic had a valid medical exemption, the minister concedes

The Melbourne-based newspaper The Age released a spectacular story on Saturday morning – that the Australian government now argues that the presence of Djokovic throughout the Australian Open is a threat for lives and civil order at risk by increasing anti-vax sentiment and disregard for COVID-19 rules. In other words, immigration minister Alex Hawke has abandoned the previous lines of thinking, and concedes for the sake of argument the unvaccinated Djokovic entered Australia with a valid medical exemption.

Hawke notes in court documentation that he is not medically trained so he is not qualified to interrogate the awarding of the exemption itself. He also highlights his concern around Djokovic’s behaviour in failing to self-isolate after the positive result for COVID-19 he reported in December, specifically mentioning his worries around the interview with L’Equipe.

The Age’s story is available here.

Experts suggest that Djokovic has a reasonable chance to succeed in his challenge.

Friday updates: Still a last-minute hope for Djokovic

A two-hour emergency court hearing took place on Friday evening Australian time as Djokovic’s legal team lodged an immediate challenge to immigration minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa. Judge Anthony Kelly ordered border officials not to remove Novak Djokovic from Australia as long as his legal challenge is ongoing. The player will be interviewed on Saturday morning and then will be taken into immigration detention. He will be allowed to return to his lawyers’ offices under Australian Border Force guard to prepare submissions and appear for another hearing on Sunday morning. This hearing would close the case the day before the Australian Open. Judge Kelly also ordered the case’s transfer to the Federal Court. If Djokovic’s challenge is successful, he will play his Australian Open first-round match on Monday.

The hearing is now adjourned with no more developments expected until Saturday.

Previous updates: Breaking news, Djokovic’s visa cancelled again

• Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time on Friday. He stated that the decision visa was based on “health and other good grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”.

Novak Djokovic Statement from Alex Hawke Australian Immigration Minister
Novak Djokovic Statement from Alex Hawke Australian Immigration Minister

Thursday update: Djokovic plays by his own rules, says Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas has given his views on Djokovic in an interview – holding back from outright criticism but also indicating that he himself chose to be fully vaccinated in order to compete at the Australian Open with no additional rules to follow.

“For sure he has been playing by his own rules,” said the world No 4 to Indian news network WION. “He has been doing something not many players have the guts to go and do, especially after the ATP announced certain criteria for players to enter the country.”

He has been doing something not many players have the guts to go and do.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

“No one would have thought, ‘I can just come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols that they give me.’ It takes a lot of daring to do, I think, putting a Grand Slam at risk, which again I don’t think many players would do.”

Thursday update : Scott Morrison – “The policy hasn’t changed”

Answering a question at the end of his press conference, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison says he expects his minister to apply the rules when it comes to Covid vaccination exemptions.

“All I will simply say is the reason we have had since 15 December, where fully vaccinated eligible visa holders could travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption… That individual has to show they are double vaccinated or must provide acceptable proof that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. That’s the policy, that policy hasn’t changed…of course we would expect authorities to be implementing the policy of the government when it comes to those matters.”

That individual has to show they are double vaccinated or must provide acceptable proof that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons

Scott Morrison, Prime minister

Morrison admits that non-citizen non-residents could have acquired a visa – but that did not guarantee that they fulfilled conditions to enter the country. “They may have acquired a visa recently, they may have acquired a visa some time ago and be returning, when some of these issues weren’t extant at that time. That’s why it’s important to distinguish between the visa and the condition to enter the border. They’re not one and the same thing and they’re often conflated and shouldn’t be.

“If you;re not a citizen or resident, then the health rules we have in place to protect our borders [apply] – and our border protection policies have been central to the government’s achievements when it comes [to Covid] and Australia’s achievements generally in having one of the lowest death rates.”

Thursday update: No decision yet, so Djokovic is in the draw

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison did not announce a final decision on Novak Djokovic’s visa, despite holding a press conference on the pandemic in Canberra. So the draw for the Australian Open proceeded after an unexplained 75-minute delay with Novak Djokovic at the top of it. Australian media understand no decision will be taken on Friday.

Wednesday update: Reports suggest that Djokovic statement raises more questions for investigation

Novak Djokovic issued a statement on Wednesday morning in which he addresses some of the questions that many had been asking over the past few days.

However, reports in Australia now indicate that the statement raises more questions than it actually answers, highlighting discrepancies in the various accounts of Djokovic’s movements and decision-making – and that it may mean more investigation by immigration minister Alex Hawke is required.

In the lengthy post, Djokovic says he learnt of his positive result on December 17 after attending a children’s event in Belgrade and that he cancelled all engagements besides the L’Equipe interview during which he did maintain social distance and wore his mask throughout except for when the photo was taken. The Serb admitted that, on reflection, he realised this was an error in judgment and he should have rescheduled.

The Serb also said the mistake in his travel declaration, which said he had not travelled in the two weeks preceding his arrival in Melbourne, was a human error by his agent for which he sincerely apologised and said that he has provided additional information on the same to the Australian authorities.

Djokovic was also back on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday for another practice session, this time with 20-year-old Australian Tristan Schoolkate.

Wednesday fact : Immigration Minister says new information will affect timeframe for a decision

In light of the new information submitted by Djokovic and his team to the Australian authorities, a spokesman for immigration minister Alex Hawke has told The Age that the new submissions will affect the timeframe for a final decision on Djokovic’s visa.

Wednesday fact : WTA & PTPA issue statement on Czech player Renata Voracova, who says she will demand compensation from Tennis Australia

Meanwhile, the WTA Tour has issued a statement on Renata Voracova, the Czech player who had her visa cancelled by Australian authorities and left the country rather than contesting the decision.

While appreciating the efforts of Tennis Australia to put together the tournaments and reiterating that all players should be vaccinated, the WTA states, “The complications experienced over the past few days where athletes have followed the approved and authorized process of receiving a medical exemption for entry into the country are unfortunate. Renata Voracova followed these rules and procedures, was cleared for entry upon her arrival, competed in an event and then suddenly had her visa cancelled when she had done nothing wrong. We will continue to work with all authorities on addressing this unfortunate situation in an appropriate manner.”

The PTPA, which had been very vocal in its support of Djokovic since his detention, also posted a statement saying they are in constant touch with her and are looking into her case as well.

In an interview with the Denik daily, 38-year-old Voracova, who is ranked No 82 in doubles, said she would demand compensation from Tennis Australia.

“The air ticket alone cost 60,000 Czech crowns (2,460 euros, $2,780) and my coach travelled with me. And then there is all that time, hotels, training for the Grand Slam, the potential prize money. I hope Tennis Australia will face up to it and that we won’t have to take legal steps,” said Voracova.

Wednesday fact : Djokovic’s mother tells Australian TV: “He didn’t know he was positive”

Speaking on the TV show Sunrise, Dijana Djokovic, Novak Djokovic’s mother, said her son probably did not know he was positive when he was tested on December 16. “He didn’t know it because when he realised that he [was] positive then he [went] to isolate,” she said. “I really cannot say anything about that, but it’s maybe the best to ask him.”

This is the main point today: Djokovic officially stated he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his January 6 arrival in Australia.

Tuesday updates: Murray hopes for more answers to questions

Andy Murray was asked about Djokovic in his post-match press conference.

“It’s positive that he’s not in detention anymore. Obviously he won in court, so, you know, that’s a positive thing for him. Hopefully will be able to concentrate on the tennis now. I think there is still a few questions that need to be answered around the isolation and stuff, which I’m sure we’ll hear from him in the next few days, but yeah, I mean, I’m obviously here to try and play and win tournaments.”

No decision from immigration minister Hawke today

No decision on Djokovic’s visa from immigration minister Alex Hawke is expected until Wednesday at the earliest now.

“In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter. As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further,” said the minister’s office in a statement shared by AAP court reporter Karen Sweeney.

Djokovic practises again on Rod Laver Arena

Even as a final decision is awaited, world No 1 Novak Djokovic returned to the Rod Laver Arena for a practice session on Tuesday afternoon.

Others were not able to view the practice session as tennis writer Ben Rothenberg noted, “Believe Djokovic is practicing in Rod Laver currently but they’ve cut the normal camera feeds and the doors are locked (a guard told me they would reopen at 4:30, which is presumably when Djokovic is done).”

Decision from Minister Hawke still awaited

According to AAP Newswire Court Reporter in Melbourne Karen Sweeney, Hawke is still considering whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act. There is no deadline by when the final decision needs to be made.

Did Djokovic lie on his travel declaration?

Reports from Melbourne have suggested that Australian authorities are also looking into whether Djokovic lied on his Australian travel declaration.

One of the questions on the travel declaration form asks the traveller if he has travelled to any other country in the 14 days prior to landing in Australia, to which Djokovic has responded no. According to videos that were seen on social media, Djokovic was seen in Serbia on December 25, and training in Spain on January 2.

Victorian premier on Djokovic visa: ” The issue of who gets into the country & their vaccination status is not an issue for state governments”

Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews has reaffirmed his stance that only vaccinated people should be allowed into the country when he was asked for comments on the Djokovic visa controversy.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Andrews also said that Djokovic’s visa is a federal matter and not a state matter. “I stand by our comments. I was asked the question, would we be asking the Commonwealth government to exempt certain people from the requirement to be vaccinated, no, that was the answer then, that is the answer now. The issue of who gets into the country and their vaccination status is not an issue for state governments. I don’t issue visas, the Commonwealth government does that. There’s a court ruling, whether that’s appealed is a matter for the Commonwealth government.”

ATP issues statement on Djokovic

The ATP Tour, which had been silent on the whole Djokovic controversy, finally issued a statement on Tuesday morning Australia time.

The statement reads: “In travelling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations. The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.”

“Player medical exemption requests are made independently of ATP, however we have been in constant contact with Tennis Australia to seek clarity throughout this process. We welcome the outcome of Monday’s hearing and look forward to an exciting few weeks of tennis ahead.”

You can read the entre statement in the link below, in which the ATP also confirms that 97 of the top 100 players are now vaccinated.

Monday evening updates: Djokovic keen on playing the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic tweeted these words on Monday around 2:15pm CET, 12:15am Australian time, from Melbourne Park where the Australian Open is due to happen :

“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans. For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong.”

I want to stay and try to compete at Australian Open. I remain focused on that.

Novak Djokovic

Monday morning update : New court documents released

Djokovic’s deposition documents have been made publicly available. In it, he says he was testing negative for Covid-19 on December 22 following an earlier positive PCR test. He adds that he travelled to Australia with the understanding that a recent infection with Covid-19 was a contraindication for vaccination under their laws. He also goes into some detail about his arrival at the airport and what he found to be confusing conversations with border officials.

In the appendices to the documentation, Djokovic’s temporary visa was granted on November 18. His positive Covid-19 sample was taken on December 16. Dr Carolyn Broderick of Tennis Australia wrote a letter on December 30 saying that his recent positive test meant that he was granted a medical exemption from vaccination. On January 1, the Australia Travel Declaration was lodged on his behalf by Tennis Australia, with the receipt email stating that his responses indicated he did not need to quarantine on arrival.

In the notice of intent to cancel the visa, border officials indicate that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to public health. They also provided him with a document which states: “Previous infection with Covid-19 is not considered a medical contraindication for Covid-19 vaccination in Australia,” and adds: “The information you have provided does not show a medical contraindication to Covid-19 vaccines or evidence of that provided by a medical practitioner.”

Novak Djokovic leaving the Park Hotel, 2022
Djokovic leaving the Park hotel to meet the judge © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Monday morning update : Judge upholds Djokovic’s appeal – but visa may be cancelled anyway

The judge has upheld Djokovic’s appeal against the cancellation of his visa – but the government lawyers have indicated that an individual minister may well choose to cancel it regardless if it is within their power, meaning he may well be detained again. The judge says that he would not wish to encroach on any minister’s ability to exercise their power, but speaks at length about the importance of everyone playing by the same rules, which he says would not be the case here.

If an individual minister cancelled Djokovic’s visa and he did not appeal, it’s possible that he would then be banned from re-entering the country for three years. The main draw of the Australian Open begins next week and if Djokovic and the government enter another round of legal procedure, it is possible that any decision may come too late to allow him to compete.

Read the full story.

Previous update : Injunction on Djokovic’s deportation extended till 8pm local time

The court was expected to resume at 3:45pm local time. However, once they did resume, the government’s lawyers asked for some time for submissions which has been granted.

The government lawyer also asked that the injunction against Djokovic’s deportation, which was originally till 4pm local time, to be extended till 4.30pm local time. The judge has provided the extension till 8pm. There is no update on what time the hearing will now resume but it is expected to resume today.

Previous update : Hearing begins amidst media scrutiny as Djokovic’s lawyers hammer home unfair treatment by immigration officers at Melbourne Airport

The hearing started 30 minutes late in Melbourne – due to technical difficulties that eventually persisted – and we were given a glimpse into the arguments being made by Djokovic’s legal team, headed by Nicolas Wood, S.C. As the hearing proceeded it was clear that Judge Kelly sympathised with Djokovic and found that the handling of his case during the eight hours he spent at the airport was excessive.

“What more could this man have done,” he asked, referring to the fact that Djokovic had with him the exemption he had been granted from the Victorian government and Tennis Australia.

“Here, a professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption. Further to that, that medical exemption and the basis on which it was given, was separately given by a further independent expert specialist panel established by the Victorian state government.”

Judge Kelly

His lead lawyer, Mr Wood, claimed that Djokovic was utterly confused by the situation at the airport because he had done everything that was asked of him.

Judge Kelly seemed to also believe that the immigration officer should have granted Djokovic more time to speak with his lawyers and to Tennis Australia while at the airport (he hinted that the immigration officers decided that allowing Djokovic to get in touch with counsel wouldn’t change the outcome, so they simply didn’t bother).

Shortly after this point of the hearing, we lost our connection to the stream. It continues as we attempt to reconnect. It is still very early in the hearing, as we haven’t even heard from the lawyers representing the government in the case…

Previous update : Djokovic granted permission to leave hotel to watch hearing

Reportedly Djokovic has been set free – or, rather, ordered free – to attend and watch the hearing. From Karen Sweeney:

“Judge Kelly has just ordered the govt/ABF bring Djokovic to a location specified by his solicitor on Monday (and whatever days the court ends up sitting) so he can watch the hearing.”

No word on where Djokovic is, but he’s not visible during the hearing.

Earlier on Sunday: Australian Open provides its response in writing ahead of the hearing

Ten hours before Novak Djokovic’s hearing, the Australian government provided its response to his appeal document. In this 13-page text (compared to 35 pages for Djokovic’s document), they argue that the Australia federal state retains ultimate discretion over who is allowed into the country, as a sovereign nation, adding that even if the appeal is successful, the authorities retain the right to detain him again immediately and commencing a new examination.

Sunday latest: Tiley points to conflicting advice from state and federal officials

Tournament director Craig Tiley broke his silence to speak to Channel 9 on Sunday, amidst reports that the federal government has sought to delay Monday’s court case by 48 hours, and says he’s still hoping to see Novak Djokovic play the 2022 Australian Open.

Admitting that he would love to see Djokovic play the tournament, he explained: “All the information we had at the time, all the knowledge we had at the time, was supplied to the players. From the beginning we were saying the condition on which you can be assured to come into Australia is to meet the requirements of certain vaccines that were valid in Australia, to get vaccinated with those vaccines. And there will always be a handful of people – as it would be for people normally coming to Australia, not only for tennis – that require for medical reasons exemptions.”

Craig Tiley breaking silence on Channel 9, Sunday.

He added: “We’re not going to lay the blame on anyone. All I can say is primarily because there is much conflict in information, much contradictory information the whole time. Every single week we were talking to home affairs, to all the possible governments to ensure we were doing the right thing and we were on the right process with these exemptions but knowing also that everyone coming in had to be vaccinated. We are at that point. The conflicting information and the contradictory information that you receive is because of the changing environment. We are in a very challenging environment.”

He concluded: “I’m not going to blame anyone. All I’m going to say is we know what we know, we know what we have in front of us, we [do] the best job we can to do what we did, to bring the players in.”

Sunday latest : Officials told Tennis Australia the Victorian government was responsible for vaccine exemptions (leak)

The media in Australia reported earlier on Sunday that new leaked letters show that officials told Tennis Australia the Victorian government was responsible for assessing vaccine exemptions. A string of correspondence shows that with regulations and advice changing all the time, conflicting statements were made by federal and state officials.

Correspondence shows that Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had said that people with a recent Covid-19 infection could enter the state without having to go into quarantine. These letters, reproduced by The Age, also suggest that the federal government did not take the opportunity to go through any exemption applications before the travellers began their journey – following the usual process, with documentation being checked on arrival at the border. This suggests Djokovic’s paperwork was read over for the first time only when he arrived at Melbourne, as would be normal procedure. Indeed, the court documents released on Saturday show that the letter that Djokovic’s team say gave him permission to travel without quarantining is an automated response based on completing a form, the Australia Travel Declaration – and does not give a person permission to enter the country.

“We asked if they could please assess our decisions,” Tiley told the Age. “We said we’re going to need some help to make sure we’re doing the right thing. We’d be in a different situation today.”

Craig Tiley live on Channel 9, Sunday afternoon Australian time

It is also worth noting that Tennis Australia were asking about recent infection as a reason for medical exemption as far back as November, according to these letters. On November 10, Allison Cairns, an adviser to Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, wrote to Tennis Australia to answer their query about whether unvaccinated players would be permitted entry into the country.

“Medical exemptions from vaccination will be at the discretion of the state or territory, so it would probably be good to touch base with the state of arrival earlier rather than later to determine if any will be an issue,” Cairns wrote.

A few days later, letters from other officials, including federal government health minister Greg Hunt, are very clear that recent Covid-19 infection is not a valid grounds for exemption and entry into the country.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s chief health officer told Tennis Australia on December 2: “Anyone with a history of recent Covid-19 infection (defined as within six months) and who can provide appropriate evidence of this medical history, is exempt from quarantine obligations upon arrival in Victoria from overseas.”

As per Saturday’s updates, court documents indicate that Djokovic tested positive for Covid-19 on December 16.

Meanwhile, doubles specialist Renata Voracova – who is understood to have entered Australia on the same visa as Djokovic – has left the country, according to Hunt.

A general view of the Park Hotel, believed to be holding Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic in Melbourne © AAP Image/Joel Carrett /Panoramic

Saturday latest: Djokovic tested positive for Covid-19 on December 16, 2021

According to court documents that were released on Saturday, Djokovic tested positive for Covid-19 on December 16, 2021. The positive test was the reason Djokovic had applied and received a medical exemption.

The court documents also mention that an exemption certificate recorded that 14 days after testing positive in December, the player “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours”.

According to Tennis Australia documents, the deadline for players to apply for a medical exemption was December 10, which raises some more questions on how Djokovic received the medical exemption.

Several photos of Djokovic attending an awards ceremony at the Novak Tennis Center around the date of his positive test have also surfaced online. It remains to be confirmed if the pictures are prior to or after his test on December 16.

Friday fact : Tiley video message to Tennis Australia staff leaked

On Saturday afternoon, the Australian media outlet The Herald Sun published a leaked video message (for subscribers only) sent to Tennis Australia staff in which Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley has defended the work that the organizers have done.

Tiley’s role in the contorversy has come under the scanner after some reports emerged that he was aware that having a COVID-19 infection over the last six months was not going to be considered as grounds for medical exemption by the federal authorities.

In the video, Tiley says, “Unfortunately over the last couple of days, there’s been a circumstance that relates to a couple of players, Novak particularly, [where we are] in a situation that is very difficult.

“We’re a player-first event … We’re working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, that are in this situation. I want to assure you that we are in a position where we would like to share with you all the information, and we will. We;ve chosen at this point not to be very public with it simply because there is a pending lawsuit related to entry into Australia. Once that has run its course, we’ll be able to share more with you. There;s a lot of finger-pointing going on and a lot of blaming going on, but I can assure you our team has done an unbelievable job and have done everything they possibly could according to all the instructions that they have been provided.”

Friday fact : Djokovic sends message of thanks

Shortly after midnight on Friday – Christmas Day in the Orthodox church in Serbia, Novak Djokovic sent a message of thanks to those who have been supporting him.

Novak Djokovic's message on Instagram, January 7th
© Instagram / @DjokerNole

Friday fact : Second player held in same hotel, will leave the country

According to ABC News, Czech doubles player Renata Voracova has also had her visa cancelled. The world No 81 in doubles was placed in the same hotel as Djokovic and Czech news reports say she will not appeal, so will leave the country. ABC news says she had claimed an exemption because she’d had Covid-19 in the past six months.

In an interview with news site, published on Friday, Voracova spoke about being held in the detention center, saying that while the authorities were not mean to her, it did feel like a prison in some sense.

“I can’t say they were mean to me,” Voracova said. “But I was not prepared for the way everything played out. I felt like being in an action film. Several practices in quarantine are not pleasant. You have to report and everything is allotted. I feel a bit like in prison. I felt the worst when they told me they would cancel my visa. Even the lawyer who was with me said I had all the necessary confirmation (documents) in order.”

Report: Tennis Australia gave players incorrect information: Tennis Australia denies same in statement released

According to a report in the Herald Sun newspaper, Tennis Australia sent players information which told them they would be allowed into the country if they could prove they’d had Covid-19 in the past six months, even if they were unvaccinated. The report says Tennis Australia did this, even though they had been told by border authorities that would not work.

Meanwhile, Tennis Australia released a statement on Friday night local time denying players were misled.

“We reject completely that the playing group was knowingly misled. Informing players they could get into the country on a medical exemption was taken from the Smart Traveller website that Greg Hunt directly referred us to.”

Thursday key information: Djokovic’s appeal against “deportation” adjourned to Monday, he’s free to leave the country otherwise

Djokovic’s legal team has been making their case in the courts and after an initial hearing Thursday at 4pm local time, it is confirmed that the case has been adjourned to Monday, meaning Djokovic will stay in Melbourne over the weekend, confined to a quarantine hotel. He has been denied a request to occupy the same flat as his team in Melbourne.

In response to claims from Djokovic’s parents that he is effectively being held prisoner, Australia’s home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, said the Serb was actually free to go any time he likes, if he decides to go home.

“Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia,” Andrews told ABC. “He is free to leave (Australia) at any time that he chooses to do so and border force will actually facilitate that.”

Djokovic’s hotel is a regular hotel, used to house asylum seekers. According to several sources, he doesn’t have his personal belongings with him. The room is described as “dirty” by his brother Djordje and the player will share the room with bugs, her mother reported.

Nick Wood, a lawyer for Djokovic, told Judge Anthony Kelly that Tennis Australia had advised they needed to know about his participation in the tournament by Tuesday. In response, Kelly said: “If I can say, with the respect necessary, the tail won’t be wagging the dog here.” The draw ceremony is due to happen on Thursday.

Several sources highlight that under Australian law, anyone whose visa is cancelled can be banned from entering Australia for three years, or even more. “This would depend on how the process plays out in court and Djokovic’s next moves”, tweets Paul Sakkal, on site reporter. That would impeach Novak Djokovic to play the Australian Open until 2025, when he will be 37 year-old.

Thursday fact : Djokovic’s family holds a press conference

Novak Djokovic’s father, mother and brother are holding a news conference at Djokovic’s restaurant in central Belgrade. His nine previous Australian Open trophies are on display. Their key message is that Djokovic is the victim of a “political agenda” and that the way he is being treated is “a scandal”

“They are keeping him in captivity. They are stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and the Serbian people,” said his father Srdjan, who had earlier told to the Telegraf website that his son was “the Spartacus of the new world that doesn’t tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy.”.

His mother, Dijana, added: “They are keeping him as a prisoner, that’s not human and it’s not fair.”

“Morrison and his like have dared attack Novak to bring Serbia to its knees. Serbia has always shown that he comes from a proud nation,” his father Srdjan Djokovic said. “Novak is the best player and the best athlete in the world, but several hundred million people from the West can’t stomach that,” he added.

His brother Djordje said : “He was treated like a criminal while he is a healthy and decent man and a sportsman who has not endangered anyone’s life and has not committed any federal or legal offence.”

Jelena Djokovic, Novak Djokovic’s wife, tweeted a more serene message early Friday to thank all his husband’s fans, promising to “grow from this experience”.

Thursday fact : support for Djokovic in Belgrade and Melbourne

Dozens of Djokovic’s fan are demonstrating in Belgrade and Melbourne, close to his hotel.

“He is the best in the history of that sport and they cannot break him in any other way but this one. But they are not going to break him,” said Belgrade resident Zdravko Cukic, quoted by Reuters.

Voices are rising on the social networks as an Australian spectator was denied the right to express himself in favour of Djokovic at Melbourne Park during the ATP competition.

Reaction : Nadal thinks Djokovic could have avoided problems by being vaccinated against Covid-19

Rafael Nadal was diplomatic, but left everyone present in his press conference in Melbourne on Thursday in little doubt as to what he thinks of the situation surrounding Novak Djokovic, who is set to be sent home from Australia for not having the right visa to enter the country. You can read our article or watch the video below.

The Djokovic case is a political affair

Djokovic’s situation is considered by many as the result of a political fight in Australia, characterised by fingerpointing between Morrison’s conservative administration and the left-leaning Victoria state government. Under Australia’s federal system, states and territories can issue exemptions from vaccination requirements to enter their jurisdictions. However, the federal government controls international borders and can challenge such exemptions.

“Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules,” said the Prime minister Scott Morrison said in a tweet.

The Djokovic case is also a foreign policy affair

The Djokovic affair has caused ructions between Canberra and Belgrade. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Twitter he had spoken with Djokovic and accused the Australian government of harassment.

“We’re doing all we can. This persecution is unfair, starting with the Australian prime minister,” he later told Serbian media. “They are acting as if the same set of rules apply to everyone, but they’ve let in others on the same grounds that Novak had applied to.”

Morrison denied the accusations of harassment. Australian Prime minister also said he was aware that “representations have been made” by the Serbian embassy.

Read/Watch on the #Djokofiasco

We made a selection of other content on the Djokovic situation

• No Challenge remaining podcast : insight from Paul Sakkal, The Age reporter

• See how funny social media can be (Tennis Majors’ social highlights)

• Words by Novak Djokovic supporters

Boris Becker highlights that Djokovic didn’t break any rule (tennishead report).

Niki Pilic and Radmilo Armenulic, former Davis Cup captains, spoke to Reuters

• Columns

Self-sabotaging Novak Djokovic deserves criticism, but so do others in this sorry saga, by Tumaini Carayol from The Guardian

Djokovic denied entry because of politics, not public health, by Osman Faruqi from The Age

Previous updates

  • Djokovic’s visa is denied

Novak Djokovic is currently (as of evening time in Europe Wednesday, middle of the night in Australia, early hours of Thursday) isolated in a room, guarded by two policemen, without a mobile phone, according to a reliable and well-known source, our Serbian journalist Sasa Ozmo. Some Serbian media wrote that he was in pre-trial detention, which seems to be a sloppy way of expressing that the world No 1 was being held upon landing in Australia.

Djokovic, who flew in a private jet, landed in Melbourne at around 11.20pm on Wednesday night. His predicament was made public by Australian newspaper The Age, which has a special correspondent on site, who said a visa issue was preventing the Serb from entering Australia. Photos posted on Twitter show Djokovic on site with his agent Edoardo Artaldi, coach Goran Ivanisevic and people from the Australian authorities.

Djokovic’s staff are also waiting at the airport, but they seem to be much freer to move around as Ivanisevic posted a photo of himself, Ulises Baldo (physio) and a third unidentified person.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Goran Ivanisevic (@goranivanisevicofficial)

  • Djokovic detained overnight at airport

What has become known as the Djokovic affair has gone through a series of twists and turns in a matter of hours, all the way up to the federal authorities, who on Wednesday night threatened to send Djokovic back on the first plane out if they felt it necessary.

Djokovic’s initial tweet was purely sporting in nature. In the following hours, the Djokovic affair became a trending topic in the media and on social networks, with most commentary (including in the tennis world) considering the green light given to Djokovic as a free pass.

Tennis Australia CEO and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley tried to make it a technical medical case by placing the process that led to Djokovic’s exemption from vaccination above suspicion and under the wings of the Victorian medical authorities.

By confirming this, Victoria became the main target of criticism from Australian citizens.

Van with Novan Djokovic inside, Melbourne, 2021
A van, presumably holding Novak Djokovic, is surrounded by workers in personal protective equipment in a hotel carpark in Melbourne, Australia, January 6, 2022 – Australian Broadcasting Corporation/via || 217023_0001

This led the Australian central government, through the Minister for Home Affairs and then the Prime Minister, to commit to a reinforced border control. This control means Novak Djokovic must demonstrate he has an genuine medical reason for not being vaccinated. This was not strictly what the Victorian state regulations provided for.

As for the event that is currently holding Djokovic at the airport, Victoria has confirmed that it has been contacted by the Australian Police Border Services and that it has refused to validate Djokovic’s entry under the visa submitted. What remains to be clarified is the nature of the issue surrounding Djokovic’s visa.

The Age, Melbourne’s leading daily newspaper, claims that Djokovic’s staff applied for the wrong visa and that the visa held by the Serbian does not provide for any possible vaccination exemption. If this is the case, the opening of the office at Melbourne airport at 8am is the next operational deadline.

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