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Novak Djokovic blames agent for Australian paperwork ‘wrong’ and admits not to isolate after positive Covid result

Novak Djokovic has blamed his agent for a “clerical error” when he stated that he had not traveled to Australia in the two weeks before his flight, and acknowledged an “error of judgment” in not isolating himself after testing positive for Covid.

The world No. 1 released a statement on Wednesday seeking to address what he called “persistent misinformation” about his activities in December before coming to Australia in a bid to keep his Australian Open crown.

But Djokovic’s statement, posted on Instagram, did not address reports from Der Spiegel who claimed to have anomalies with his Dec. 16 PCR test result. The coverage raises questions about the positive Covid diagnosis underlying his exemption from traveling to Australia.

Wednesday’s statement claims he was not notified of his positive result until December 17, despite Djokovic’s affidavit to federal court that he was both “tested and diagnosed” on December 16.

Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke has confirmed that he is still considering revocation of Djokovic’s visa, citing “lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation” from the player’s lawyers as the cause of the delay.

Djokovic had his visa restored by federal court on Monday, but his ability to remain in Australia was questioned by the ministerial review.

It was revealed on Tuesday that the Australian Border Force was investigating his explanation for the flight after images surfaced that indicated he was in Belgrade less than two weeks before his January 4 flight from Spain to Australia.

Statement released by Novak Djokovic regarding his positive Covid test and Australian travel statement. Photo: Novak Djokovic/Instagram

On Wednesday, Djokovic said he wanted to “correct misinformation … in the interest of addressing wider community concerns about my presence in Australia”.

“I want to emphasize that I have tried very hard to ensure everyone’s safety and that I can meet the testing obligations,” he said.

“I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on December 14 and it was reported that a number of people tested positive for Covid-19.

“Despite having no Covid symptoms, I did a rapid antigen test on December 16 which was negative, and as a precaution I also did an official and approved PCR test that same day.”

Djokovic said on December 17 that he was attending a tennis event in Belgrade to award prizes to children after testing negative again on a rapid test. “I was asymptomatic and feeling well, and I had not been notified of a positive PCR test result until after that event.”

Djokovic said that, after receiving the positive result, he nevertheless went to his tennis center in Belgrade on December 18 to uphold a “prolonged commitment for a L’Equipe interview”, because he “felt obliged” and “didn’t want to abandon the journalist”. Djokovic says he was socially distancing and wearing a mask except when photos were being taken.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate the required period, on reflection this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have resisted this commitment.”

Djokovic said the incorrect January 1 pre-travel declaration was “filed by my support team on my behalf”.

“My agent sincerely apologizes for the clerical error in ticking the wrong box about my previous trip before coming to Australia. This was human error and certainly not intentional.”

Djokovic said he has “provided additional information to the Australian government to clarify this matter” but would not comment further “out of the utmost respect for the Australian government and their authorities and the current process”.

Djokovic declined to comment on the Der Spiegel report that claimed the QR code for his Dec. 16 PCR test showed a negative result when they scanned it earlier this week, before subsequently giving a positive result.

It also claimed to have discovered discrepancies between the paper version of the PCR test result that was shown to be positive and the digital version as presented by the tennis player’s lawyers.

The paper version reportedly suggests that the alleged positive test result is not from December 16, but – according to the time stated – from December 26. Spiegel acknowledged that the timestamp can also indicate when the result was downloaded by the test subject.

According to findings from IT research group Zerforschung, and shared with Spiegel, the December 16 positive test had the Serbian test system number 7371999. Djokovic’s negative test result, conducted on December 22, reportedly had an identification number about 50,000 positions lower.

The Zerforschung researchers have told Spiegel they have confirmation that the test ID numbers are increasing rather than decreasing, raising questions that the test was reportedly conducted Dec. 22 ahead of the test, which is said to be Dec. 16.

Novak Djokovic practices in Melbourne with Australian Open place in doubt - video
Novak Djokovic practices in Melbourne with Australian Open place in doubt – video

Spiegel put questions to both Djokovic and Serbian health authorities, but had not received an answer on Tuesday evening. The Guardian has also reached out to Djokovic for comment.

A spokesman for Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, said he was still considering using his personal authority to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

“Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently submitted lengthy additional pieces and supporting documentation that would be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa,” he said on Wednesday. “Of course this affects the time frame for a decision.”

Around the same time as Djokovic’s statement was released, the world No. 1 continued his tournament preparations by holding his first open training session at the Rod Laver Arena with Tristan Schoolkate, a young Australian player.

Djokovic’s first two training sessions since his release were held privately with the doors of the Rod Laver Arena locked and the court’s live stream was turned off on Tuesday.

Additional Report Tumaini Carayol