Novak Djokovic has admitted attending an event with children while he was Covid positive, but said he didn’t know he was infected until shortly afterwards as he addressed questions about his positive Covid test in mid-December.
His public statement comes amid claims in German media of possible inconsistencies in the tennis star’s test results from Serbia which could create new visa problems for the world no. 1.
Djokovic has been the subject of intense scrutiny for presenting awards to children at a tennis event in the Serbian capital Belgrade on December 17 – a day after testing positive to the virus, and for making a false declaration before landing Australia.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, the 34-year-old lashed out at ‘misinformation’ and claimed it wasn’t until after the event that he learned he was Covid positive.
But the Serbian did own up to then conducting an in-person interview with French newspaper L’Équipe knowing he was positive, a mistake he put down to an ‘error in judgement’.
He also admitted his agent made an administrative error and accidentally ticked an incorrect box about his travel history.
Now, Australia’s immigration Minister Alex Hawke says he is considering cancelling the visa another time, as the fresh doubts emerged.
In an update to Australian media, Hawke’s spokesman acknowledged receiving ‘lengthy further submissions’ from the player’s lawyers.
‘Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision,’ he said.
In his lengthy social media post, Djokovic wrote: ‘I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead-up to my positive Covid test result.
Novak Djokovic (pictured at a training session on Wednesday) has addressed questions about his positive Covid test in mid-December
Novak Djokovic with his wife Jelena. He has hit out at ‘misinformation’ over claims he tested positive to Covid and then attended an event with children
Djokovic said he attended a basketball game on December 14 and then found out multiple people at the event had tested positive to the virus. Pictured: Djokovic reacts during a basketball match between Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and FC Barcelona at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall on December 14, 2021 in Belgrade, Serbia
‘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.’
Djokovic said he attended a basketball game on December 14 and then found out multiple people at the event had tested positive to the virus.
He said he took a rapid antigen test, which came back negative, and then an official PCR test the same day ‘out of an abundance of caution’.
The Serbian claimed he only found out about his positive PCR result in the hours after the Belgrade tennis awards event.
‘The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a L’Équipe interview and photoshoot,’ he said.
‘I cancelled all other events except for the L’Équipe interview.’
Djokovic admitted the decision to follow through with the interview was an ‘error of judgement’.
DJOKOVIC COMES CLEAN ABOUT HIS COVID TESTS AND VISA DEBACLE
I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead-up to my positive 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 to 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 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’Équipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L’Equipe interview.
I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Équipe 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 taken.
Djokovic is pictured during a training session at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.
When I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment 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 was 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.
DECEMBER 25, SERBIA: A photo uploaded to Twitter on Christmas Day shows Djokovic with handball player Petar Djordjic in Belgrade
DECEMBER 31, SPAIN : Video uploaded by a tennis training academy on New Year’s Eve purports to show Djokovic training in Marbella
JANUARY 2, SPAIN: Another image uploaded to Twitter by a fan appears to show Djokovic training in Marbella last week
LEFT – JANUARY 4, SPAIN: Novak Djokovic in Marbella playing soccer on the tennis court with his brother Marko and the coach before going to Australia. RIGHT – JANUARY 5, AUSTRALIA: Novak Djokovic stands at a booth of the Australian Border Force at the airport in Melbourne on January 5 after arriving from Spain, via Dubai
In answer to the question: ‘Have you travelled, or will you travel, in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia?’ whoever filled out Djokovic’s travel declaration form selected ‘no’. That means the 34-year-old tennis player would have needed to remain in the same country since December 21. But social media images appeared to show that he was in Belgrade, Serbia, on December 25 and then in Marbella, Spain, from December 31 until catching his flight to Australia, via Dubai, and landing in Melbourne on January 5
‘I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Équipe 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 taken,’ he said.
‘When I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.’
Djokovic also blamed an administrative error on his Australian travel declaration for misleading officials about his travel in the weeks before he arrived in Melbourne.
The tennis star flew to Spain and then onto Australia before being detained by border officials last Thursday, but checked ‘no’ to a travel declaration form question about travel in the 14 days before landing in Melbourne.
December 17: The maskless tennis World No. 1 posed for pictures with the children in Serbia at a public PR event. He said on Wednesday he didn’t know he had Covid until after the event
‘This was submitted by my support team on my behalf – as I told immigration officials on my arrival,’ he said.
‘My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia.’
Djokovic said the mistake was a ‘human error’ and in a pandemic ‘sometimes these mistakes can occur’.
‘Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify this matter,’ he said.
In the final page of his Instagram post, Djokovic said he would be making no further comment ‘out of utmost respect for the Australian government’.
Djokovic is seen during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Wednesday
Der Spiegel highlighted a series of possible inconsistences in official records about the Serbian world number one’s PCR test results from last month.
Djokovic was told he could fly into Melbourne on the basis he tested positive to the virus in Serbia on December 16 and then negative six days later.
But Der Spiegel claims when its reporter entered the code for his December 16 test into the official Serbian health database at 1.19pm on Monday, the result came back negative.
An hour later at 2.33pm, the scan returned a positive result – in what could simply be a quirk of the system.
A negative result would have invalidated Djokovic’s claim to enter Australia on a temporary working visa for the tournament.
His positive test result has also been called into question by a discrepancy in the identification numbers used for every test.
The German investigation found Djokovic’s December 16 test result had the ID number 7371999, but his negative result on December 22 was 7320919 – 50,000 spaces lower.
Researchers claimed the mismatched identification numbers showed Djokovic may actually have tested negative on December 16 and then positive six days later.
Such a result would have also made the Serbian ineligible to enter Australia on the grounds he had recently contracted and recovered from the virus on December 22, as claimed on official documentation.
The Serbian admitted he then conducted an in-person media interview with French newspaper L’Équipe knowing he was positive, a mistake he put down to an ‘error in judgement’
A German news site claims when it entered the code for Djokovic’s December 16 test into the official Serbian database at 1.19pm on Monday, the result came back negative (left) and then positive about an hour later (right)
It comes as Djokovic’s entry into Australia as an unvaccinated player was questioned by World No. 38 Marton Fucsovics, who accused the Serbian of skirting the rules to play in the Grand Slam.
Fucsovics this week fired a shot at Djokovic over his decision not to get vaccinated, declaring the 34-year-old was ‘finding a way around rules’.
‘People’s health is paramount, and there are rules that were outlined months ago, namely that everyone should vaccinate themselves – and Djokovic didn’t,’ Fucsovics said.
‘From this point of view, I don’t think he would have the right to be here.’
British tennis legend Andy Murray on Tuesday said there are still ‘a few questions to be answered’ by Djokovic over his visa debacle.
‘There are 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 I’m obviously here to try and play and win tournaments,’ he said.
‘He won in court, which is good. Looks like he’s going to be able to play and compete in the Australian Open, which we do want the best players there, but like I said, I think there is still a few questions to be answered.’
Djokovic’s mother has also opened up about the Australian Open visa exemption debacle – and claimed he ‘didn’t know’ he was infected with Covid-19 while pictured attending public events in Serbia last month.
British tennis legend Andy Murray said there are still ‘a few questions to be answered’ by Djokovic over his visa debacle. Murray is pictured celebrating winning a match at the 2022 Sydney International on Tuesday
Dijana Djokovic claims her son ‘didn’t know’ he had Covid while attending events in the following days, despite court documents confirming the positive PCR test.
Photos show the tennis star hugging children at an event on December 17 before attending the Serbian National Postal Service launch of his own stamp.
‘He didn’t know, probably, he didn’t know because when he realised he was positive then he go to isolation,’ she told Sunrise on Wednesday from Belgrade.
‘I really cannot say but it’s maybe the best is to ask him.’
Ms Djokovic opened up on the heavy toll her son’s visa saga has had on the rest of family back home, describing the last week as the ‘most difficult time for us’.
‘We never have, even in my worst dreams thought that something like this was going to happen,’ she said.
‘So honestly, for a few days, we weren’t even sleeping so we are really tired and trying to do our best to spread the word about what is going on.’
Djokovic pictured at his first full practice session on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday after he spent five days holed up in immigration detention
Despite his successful court appeal to stay, Djokovic may still be booted from the country with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke yet to decide whether to use his personal powers to cancel his visa for a second time.
Australian Border Force has also launched a fresh investigation into whether the Djokovic lied on a travel declaration form before entering the country.
His mother is still ‘very worried’ he may still be deported by authorities ahead of next week’s Australian Open as she issued an impassioned plea to let her son stay.
‘I was reading in the newspapers there’s still the possibility they may deport him so I’m very worried and I realise that this is not over yet and we are all praying that he will stay,’ she said.
‘I hope everyone is thinking the same.
‘Don’t throw him out, he is a tennis player, he is not politician, he is not a criminal, he is not a murderer, he’s just a tennis player, the best in the world, just let him play and show what he knows.’
‘He came to Australia to play and to win the Australian Open, this is his goal.’
Dijana Djokovic (pictured) opened up about her son’s ongoing visa saga to Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday morning
She doesn’t think it’s fair Mr Hawke may still deport Djokovic.
‘The Honourable Judge Kelly made the decision he was free so I cannot understand why one man can make the other decision…… but I don’t know your laws in your country so I really don’t understand,’ she added.
Ms Djokovic also defended her son’s strong stance on vaccination and respects his decision to not get the jab.
‘As mother I can’t pressure him,’ she said.
‘I don’t know what the problem is if he doesn’t want to get vaccinated – that is his choice,’ she said.
‘Each person on this world has the opportunity to make this choice, this is like human rights.’
Ms Djokovic then slammed the rules banning players from taking part in the Australian Open unless they are fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption.
‘I don’t understand this law that only if you’re vaccinated you can play,’ she said.
Dijana Djokovic claims her son ‘didn’t know’ he had Covid while attending events (pictured at the Serbian National Postal Service launch) in the following days of a positive PCR test on December 16
‘It’s not that I’m against vaccination, of course I’m not, but if you’re vaccinated, it’s not that you’re protected from the coronavirus.
‘Lot of people who have two or three vaccines get ill.
‘Are they afraid he’s going to cough on the court? It’s silly.’
She added her son is as hungry as ever to win his tenth Australian Open title and become the first men’s tennis player in history to win 21 grand slam titles.
‘Now he has more strength and power to win this, because he wants to show everybody in the world why he is the best in the world,’ Mrs Djokovic said.
More to come