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Tennis: Novak Djokovic drawn to play in Australian Open

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World #1 Novak Djokovic has been drawn with compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the Australian Open, with Tennis Australia still preparing as if he’s going to play.

Photo: AFP

Officials delayed the men’s and singles’ draw, following an earlier announcement imposing crowd limits of 50 percent on attendances, but he has now been drawn against Serbia’s world number 78 Miomir Kecmanovic.

Djokovic’s fate has been hanging in the balance since Monday when he won a court case to have the cancellation of his visa overturned.

Speaking to media this afternoon, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked if there has been a decision about Djokovic, but did not provide any update.

“I refer to Minister Hawke’s most recent statement and that position hasn’t changed,” he said.

“These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time.”

Dojovic admitted yesterday that there were mistakes on his immigration forms and to meeting a journalist despite testing positive for Covid-19.

He made the admissions in an Instagram post seeking to clarify “ongoing misinformation” about his movements in Serbia and Spain after his positive diagnosis.

The men’s tennis number one’s participation in the Australian Open in Melbourne next week has been overshadowed by the row over his visa.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, had his visa revoked on 6 January shortly after arriving in Melbourne amid questions over the vaccine exemption that would have permitted him to enter.

He was held alongside asylum-seekers at an immigration detention hotel for several days before a judge said that treatment was unreasonable and on Monday ordered him freed.

But the government did not rule out further action – and the possibility has remained this week that the country’s immigration minister Alex Hawke could cancel his visa for a second time just days before the tournament begins.

Hawke could cancel the visa based on prior Covid-19 infections not counting as an exemption. But Djokovic’s visa could also be cancelled on “character grounds” based on an investigation into his arrival form and potential breaches of Serbia’s Covid-19 rules.

If Djokovic were to win the Australian Open – his 21st grand slam – he would become the most successful male tennis player in history.

This handout photo taken and released by Tennis Australia on January 11, 2022 shows Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) during a training session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.

Novak Djokovic takes a break from training for the Australian Open in Melbourne this week.
Photo: AFP / Tennis Australia / Scott Barbour

In his Instagram post yesterday, Djokovic said he had gone ahead with the interview for French title L’Equipe while positive for Covid-19 because he had not wanted to “let the journalist down”.

“[I ensured] I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he said.

L’Equipe journalist, Franck Ramella, said he had been told not to ask Djokovic about his vaccination status or the forthcoming Australian Open so “therefore did not ask if he had considered doing a test”.

On Wednesday, the International Tennis Writers Association described the incident as “deeply concerning” in a statement to CNN.

“As journalists, we take great care to adhere to all Covid-19 rules in place and we expect all players to do the same,” said Simon Chambers, co-president of the group.

“Furthermore, it should be noted that journalists have to be fully vaccinated to travel to Melbourne for this year’s Australian Open,” he added.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia raises his trophy after winning the Men's Singles Final of the 2021 Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic with the trophy he won at the Australian Open last January.
Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Djokovic also admitted making a false declaration on his travel form prior to entering Australia and said his team has provided additional information to authorities.

He said his agent had made a mistake when filling in a section of the form that covered his recent travel history. The form stated that he had not travelled in the 14 days before his arrival in Australia.

But recent reports suggest the 34-year-old was in both Serbia and Spain prior to the trip.

“My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box,” he wrote. “This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.”

The tennis star said he had not known he had Covid-19 when he went to two events – the unveiling of a Djokovic stamp and an awards ceremony attended by children.

He wrote on Instagram that he had taken a PCR test on 16 December after attending a basketball match two days before, where a number of people later tested positive.

Djokovic said that he had taken a rapid antigen test before attending both events and was only notified that his PCR was positive after attending the awards ceremony on 17 December.

Australia’s Border Force, the nation’s immigration officials, said on Tuesday they were investigating whether he had made a “false declaration” – which would be grounds for a visa cancellation.

The men’s professional tennis tour has called for more clarity of the rules to enter Australia and urged players to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Age is reporting that Djokovic’s entry into Spain days before arriving in Melbourne is now being investigated by the Spanish government.

-BBC / ABC

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