Novak Djokovic was originally granted a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he contracted Covid-19 last month, his lawyers have claimed.
In court documents published on Saturday, his legal team stated that the Serbian recorded a positive test on December 16, and has “not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 72 hours”.
Djokovic has been held at an immigration facility in Melbourne since Thursday morning after his visa was cancelled following examination of the medical exemption he had secured to travel to the first tennis major of the year.
But according to his legal team, Djokovic was provided with a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording he had a medical exemption from Covid vaccination.
It is claimed that the exemption certificate was “provided by an Independent Expert Medical Review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia”, and that “the decision of that panel had been reviewed and endorsed by an independent Medical Exemptions Review Panel of the Victorian State Government”.
Djokovic’s lawyers added that he was granted an “Australian Travel Declaration” because he was told by the authorities that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia”.
Djokovic, an outspoken critic of mandatory vaccination, has never disclosed his own vaccination status. He is challenging his visa cancellation in Australia’s federal court in the hope of winning his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan 17.
The nine-time Australian Open winner will have to wait for a hearing on Monday to discover whether he will be allowed into the country to compete.
His lawyers said he had been held mostly ‘incommunicado’ for eight hours when he first arrived in Australia, his lawyers said.
“This occurred after he was in immigration clearance – for the most part incommunicado – for about eight hours, until just before 8.00am on 06 January 2022,” court documents submitted by his legal team stated.
It emerged on Friday that two other people connected to the tournament have also been instructed to leave the country by the Australian Border Force.
One is Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova, who played in a warm-up tournament in Melbourne this week but has now opted to leave Australia.
Djokovic, 34, has been instructed to stay at Melbourne’s, which is used to house asylum seekers and refugees, before Monday’s hearing – though Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Friday he is free to leave the country “at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that”.