New wrinkle - travel declaration made by top-ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic raising questions about his compliance with Austr

UniqueThis 55 Tue at 1:51 PM
play
Djokovic's mother alleges he's suffered 'torture' in Australia (0:47)

Dijana Djokovic opens up about her son's experiences after a court ruled he should be released from hotel quarantine. (0:47)

12:18 AM ET

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Novak Djokovic held a practice session Tuesday, a day after he left immigration detention, focusing on defending his Australian Open title even while he still faces the prospect of deportation because he's not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The top-ranked tennis star hit the show courts of Melbourne Park, where the tournament is held, within hours of winning a legal battle that allowed him to stay in the country.

At issue is whether he has a valid exemption to rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19. A judge ruled Monday that he could stay, but the immigration minister could still send him home.

There were also new questions raised Tuesday over an immigration form, on which he said he had not traveled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia. The Monte Carlo-based athlete was seen in Spain and Serbia in that two-week period.

The back-and-forth over whether Djokovic complied with Australia's rules has caused a furor in the country and beyond. When the vocal skeptic of vaccines was first granted a visa to travel to Melbourne, many complained he was being given special treatment from a country known for its strict travel restrictions during the pandemic.

But amid a flood of confusing information about what the rules are, others have charged that Djokovic has become a convenient scapegoat for an Australian government facing criticism for its recent handling of the pandemic.

The nine-time Australian Open winner held a practice Tuesday afternoon at Rod Laver Arena. Soon after, tournament organizers made him the top-seeded player in the men's singles draw.

Djokovic was seen hitting shots from behind the baseline, taking feedback from his coach, and stretching beside the court with a trainer. He spent four nights confined to an immigration hotel and now is getting back into the swing less than a week before the Grand Slam tournament starts.

"Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that," Djokovic tweeted in the early hours of Tuesday. "I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans."

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. 👇 pic.twitter.com/iJVbMfQ037

— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022

But he still faces the prospect of deportation before the first match.

Djokovic, 34, of Serbia, was given an exemption by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer, from its vaccination rules to compete because he was infected with COVID-19 last month. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But federal border authorities stopped him on arrival last week and canceled his visa. Lawyers for the government have said an infection in the previous six months was grounds for an exemption only in cases in which the coronavirus caused severe illness.

It's not clear why Djokovic was ever granted a visa if that's the case.

A federal judge reinstated Djokovic's visa Monday on procedural grounds, saying he hadn't been allowed enough time to speak to his lawyers to contest the decision. But Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still considering using his power to deport the player under separate legislation.

Hawke's office issued a statement saying the matter was still under consideration.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's conservative government has blamed the debacle on Tennis Australia, which ministers accuse of misleading players about vaccine requirements. But newspapers have reported that the sporting body had pleaded with the Department of Home Affairs to check the visa paperwork of Djokovic and other players before their flights.

The new questions raised Tuesday constitute another potential stumbling block, with documents released by the Federal Circuit Court revealing that Djokovic told authorities he had not traveled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia.

Djokovic touched down in Melbourne just before midnight Wednesday, answering "no" to the question about previous travel on his Australian Travel Declaration form.

But he was filmed playing tennis in the streets of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Dec. 25, and later training in Spain -- all within the 14-day window. He traveled to Australia from Marbella, Spain.

Djokovic told border officers that Tennis Australia completed the declaration for him, but the officer who canceled his visa said that the body would have done that based on information from Djokovic himself.

It was not clear whether the document came up during Monday's hearing.

The form notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offense -- and it could be grounds for deportation.

The drama has polarized opinions and has elicited strong support for the 20-time Grand Slam winner in his native Serbia.

Morrison spoke about the issue with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić on Tuesday, and they agreed to keep in touch.

"The PM explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic," Morrison's office said in a statement.

Brnabić asked Morrison to ensure Djokovic was treated with dignity, public broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia reported.

"The prime minister especially emphasized the importance of the conditions for training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition," RTS reported.

The drama has put Morrison's government in a tight spot ahead of elections due by May. While his government was widely praised for containing the nation's COVID-19 death toll at the start of the pandemic, he has recently been criticized for loosening some rules just as omicron cases have been rapidly surging.

The opposition home affairs spokesperson, Kristina Keneally, blamed the visa confusion on a lack of planning by Morrison's government and said the saga made Australia "look like a bit of a joke" on the world stage.

"It does incredible damage to Australia" if Djokovic gets deported, Keneally told the Seven Network television, but "if he gets to stay, it does incredible damage to our tough border laws and is a real insult to the Australians who did the hard work of lockdowns and vaccination."

Andy Murray, who lost four Australian Open finals to Djokovic, said that the court win was a "positive" for his fellow major winner but that there were still details to clarify.

"I'm sure we'll hear from him in the next few days," Murray said. "I'm hoping we can move on from it now. It looks like he's going to be able to play and compete in the Australian Open."


U.S. adds just 194,000 jobs in September; Annual yard sale funds woman's random acts of kindness
0 comments
An investigation into the timeline of the events which led to the spill is underway.
0 comments
As India's brutal second coronavirus wave ravaged the country this spring, Ankit Srivastava went from hospital to hospital, trying to find help for his ailing mother.
0 comments
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Friday warned President Joe Biden he should not expect cooperation on raising the debt ceiling again, a day after he voted with Democrats to overcome a&h...
0 comments
Seven Senate Republicans defied former President Donald Trump by voting to convict him for inciting an insurrection after losing the 2020 election. But eight months later, they're largely respondin...
0 comments
The best Dyson air purifier deals will help you grab a bargain on models that usually boast a notoriously premium price.
0 comments
With these common air purifier myths debunked, you’ll have a better understanding of how they work to remove airborne particles.
0 comments
Apparently, HBO's drunk robot show is filming another run of episodes. Here's everything we know.
0 comments
Kanye West got no VIP treatment at the airport.
0 comments
MLB announcer Jim Kaat is apologizing for making a slavery reference during Yoán Moncada's at-bat on Friday.
0 comments
R. Kelly victim Faith Rodgers says he was not railroaded and threatened her for coming out against him.
0 comments
MILAN -- With Italy’s vaccination campaign now advanced, the government has finally given the green light for nightclubs to reopen next week. It’s been a long wait.Glasses remain stacked upside dow...
0 comments
A peeling portrait of Polish piano composer Frederic Chopin purchased at a flea market hung modestly in a private house in Poland for almost three decades before an expert dated the painting to the...
0 comments
A new lava flow has belched out from the La Palma volcano, and it threatens to spread more destruction on the Atlantic Ocean island where molten rock streams have already engulfed over 1,000 buildings
0 comments
Learn which types of produce are in season this October and what to cook with them! You'll find plenty of healthy seasonal recipes here.
0 comments
The White House has informed the National Archives that it is not asserting executive privilege on an initial batch of documents related to the January 6 violence at the US Capitol, paving the way ...
0 comments
Why "Ted Lasso's" Rebecca and Keeley are among TV's best female friends of all-time, Apple TV's "Acapulco," and the skits we'd love to see as Kim Kardashian is set to host "Saturday Night Live."
0 comments
Gov. Inslee receives some choice words from a state trooper signing off ahead of Monday.
0 comments
Hooters has caved on the new pantie bottoms they wanted their girls to wear.
0 comments
The British spy who collected the "pee tape" intel speaks out publicly.
0 comments
The couple that's been all about each other are going to be man and wife!
0 comments
The veteran TV actor talks all the details about 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'You,' from making television during the pandemic to keeping his big return to 'Grey's' under wraps.
0 comments
The hotly anticipated return of the singer led to tears, personal confessions, and memes.
0 comments
Wondering what the benefits of yoga are? Read on to discover the answers.
0 comments
Perfect for every skill level and budget, these are the best microscopes for kids right now
0 comments
It went down 66 million years ago.
0 comments
Can we save Earth by bombing space?
0 comments
“As soon as this work project gets done.” “As soon as we get more settled in.” “As soon as I’m done planning this event.” “As soon as the kids are older.” How commonly do we offer these postponemen...
0 comments
Amid mounting pressure from players and advocacy groups, Major League Baseball will require teams to provide housing for minor league players starting in 2022, it was announced.
0 comments
Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. can't help his Braves teammates on the field as he recovers from knee surgery, but he was on the field before Sunday's Game 2 of the NLCS, embracing his role as cheerlea...
0 comments
Garrett Temple and the New Orleans Pelicans, who've said that the upcoming "season is dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Ida," practiced Saturday at Nicholls State University in the torn town of...
0 comments
With head coach Kliff Kingsbury back home in Arizona after a positive COVID-19 test, the Cardinals kept their offense on track in a dominating 37-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on the road on Sun...
0 comments
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, who will undergo an MRI Monday for a right calf injury he suffered on his game-winning touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb Sunday in overtime against New England, believe...
0 comments
Danny "D.J." Rodriguez, who was arrested after he was identified in a HuffPost story, called himself a "f**king piece of s**t" during his interview with the FBI.
0 comments
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin said the GOP senator "never used to be this insane."
0 comments
Persistent concerns about Aduhelm, the disease's first new treatment in about 20 years, are curbing access more than four months after regulators approved it.
0 comments
Loading...