Djokovic debacle: The big questions remaining
Could Novak Djokovic still have his visa cancelled? Did the world No 1 lie on his travel declaration form when arriving in Australia? Providing the 34-year-old remains in the country, how will this saga impact his Australian Open chances? And what will the reception be like in Melbourne?
Last Updated: 11/01/22 5:46pm
The first Grand Slam of 2022 is just days away, but Andy Murray believes Novak Djokovic still needs to answer “a few questions” ahead of the Australian Open.
World No 1 Djokovic has been given the chance to win a record 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title after his visa cancellation was overturned, but could that decision be reversed again?
Here we look at the key questions that remain hanging over him, including a potential discrepancy regarding Djokovic’s whereabouts before travelling to Australia, and whether he is in the right state of mind to defend his title in Melbourne.
Could Djokovic still have his visa cancelled?
Australia’s Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still retains the personal power to cancel Djokovic’s visa, despite the successful court case, and is said to be continuing to consider the decision carefully.
“All day on Tuesday we’ve been waiting to hear from the Federal Government and the Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to find out whether he will allow Djokovic to stay and play,” Sky News reporter in Australia Nicole Johnston said on Tuesday.
“For now, it looks as if this decision may be delayed until Wednesday because it’s 6pm in Melbourne local time (on Tuesday) and no word from the Federal Government.”
On Tuesday, another statement was released by a spokesperson for Hawke: “As noted yesterday in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, Minister Hawke is considering whether to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa.
“In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter.”
Hawke is said to have three options at his disposal: he could leave things as they are with Djokovic in the country and in possession of a visa, he could re-cancel the visa and ban him from Australia for three years, or he could re-cancel the visa but not impose the ban of three years.
The personal power can be used to cancel a visa if a person poses a risk to “health, safety or good order of the Australian community or a segment of the Australian community” or the “health or safety of an individual or individuals”.
Did Djokovic lie on a travel declaration form?
The Australian Border Force is investigating a potential false claim from Djokovic within the Serb’s travel declaration form.
Court documents released show that Djokovic answered “no” to the question: “Have you travelled, or will you travel, in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia?”
The question precedes a warning on the form: “Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information.”
Social media posts appear to show Djokovic attending events in both Belgrade, Serbia and Marbella, Spain during the 14-day period before departing to Australia via Dubai on January 4.
Djokovic would need to have remained in the same country from December 21, but images show he was in Belgrade on December 25, playing tennis in the streets and pictured with handball player Petar Djordjic, and then in Marbella from December 31 until catching his flight to Australia.
The December 31 video footage uploaded by a tennis training academy shows Djokovic training in Marbella, as do other pictures presented on Twitter. “We can confirm Novak Djokovic is ready for the Australian if possible!” said the Soto Tennis Academy when uploading the footage.
Djokovic, in an affidavit submitted in court, says his agent filled out and submitted the travel form under his authorisation.
What did Djokovic do after his positive Covid Test?
“I think 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,” Murray said on Tuesday, regarding another major sticking point for Djokovic – one which is leaving a particularly bad taste around the world.
Djokovic’s supposed positive Covid-19 result was recorded on December 16, and is the basis for which he was granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia.
The reason this has received negative attention is that social media posts and pictures from Djokovic’s own Twitter account prove that on December 16 he attended a gathering with the Serbian national postal service, accepting the launching of a stamp in his honour. The 34-year-old posted about it a day later on December 17.
Pictures shared by the Belgrade tennis federation also show that on December 17, he attended an event in the city for young tennis players, handing out awards.
French outlet L’Equipe also revealed that Djokovic attended a photoshoot for their “Champion of Champions 2021” trophy presentation on December 18.
On all three occasions, Djokovic was not wearing a mask.
On Monday, Djokovic’s parents, Srdan and Dijana, and brother Djordje held a press conference speaking in emotional terms regarding the treatment of the world No 1.
Within the press call, Djordje Djokovic was then asked about Novak’s whereabouts around December 16, replying: “The process was public and all the documents are public and legal.”
When asked again by another reporter things took a somewhat farcical turn, however, as under prompting from his parents, Djordje Djokovic said: “Okay, so this press conference is adjourned at the moment, thank you for your attention,” refusing to answer, abruptly ending the conference and prompting applause.
Will this saga harm Djokovic’s Australian Open chances?
Djokovic wasted no time after Monday’s hearing overturned his visa cancellation. Within hours, the 34-year-old was training on Rod Laver Arena, the court he hopes to be lifting a 10th Australian Open title on come January 30.
Providing Djokovic is allowed to remain in the country, his focus will be on securing a 21st Grand Slam singles title, a tally that would see him become the outright record holder in men’s tennis.
The days spent in a detention hotel will have taken their toll, but Djokovic said he is “focused” on making history this month.
Asked about Djokovic’s prospects of winning the tournament, former British No 1 Andrew Castle told Sky Sports News: “I wouldn’t be surprised.
“He’s such a stubborn and hard-working guy on court, if he gets this exemption and if the Australian government don’t supersede the court, I would say that he’s going to tee it up and play.
Australian Open 2022 key dates
- The 2022 tournament due to start on Monday, January 17.
- The draw is set to take place on Thursday, January 13.
“If he can get through two, three, four rounds, and play his way into the tournament – we know how good he is – I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him into the second week of this grand slam once again, because he is so stubborn and so good.”
How will the Melbourne crowd react?
Castle added: “They’re undergoing a huge wave over there and this is a man who, waving his medical exemption around, said ‘I’m on my way down’.
“It was unsubtle, it was tone deaf and it was a PR disaster for him, kind of igniting this whole debate and, who knows, might have influenced the action of the government as well.
“He can stand on his own two feet. But he can expect a tough reaction.”
Novak Djokovic – Sequence of events
|January 4 – Djokovic announces he will be travelling to Australia with an ‘exemption permission’.|
|January 5 – While Djokovic is airborne, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the athlete will be on the “next plane home” if he cannot provide “acceptable proof” that his exemption is legitimate.|
|Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford highlights that the local government of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held, will not support Djokovic’s visa application.|
|The world No 1 arrives at Melbourne Airport around 11.30pm local time.|
|January 6 – Around 3.15am, Djokovic’s father reports that his son is being held in isolation in Melbourne Airport.|
|At 5am, Goran Ivanisevic releases an image on social media of himself and another member of Djokovic’s team seemingly waiting for the world No 1. The post is captioned, ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’.|
|Around 8.15am local time, Djokovic’s visa is confirmed to have been denied by the Australian Border Force.|
|Djokovic is moved to quarantine hotel while his legal team appeal visa cancellation.|
|The appeal against his visa cancellation is adjourned until Monday (Jan 10) morning Australian time.|
|January 7 – Australia Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says Djokovic is “free to leave any time” and is not being detained.|
|Djokovic breaks silence in Instagram post on Friday, thanking his fans for their “continuous support”.|
|January 8 – Submission from Djokovic’s lawyers on Saturday reveals positive Covid-19 test in December.|
|January 9 – Home Affairs Minister Andrews has a submission to delay the hearing until Wednesday (Jan 12) rejected by Judge Anthony Kelly.|
|Submission from Australian government lawyers says Djokovic had not been given an assurance he would be allowed to enter the country with his medical exemption.|
|January 10 – Djokovic wins appeal. Judge Anthony Kelly quashes visa cancellation, orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention.|
|Djokovic back in training ahead of Australian Open start on Jan 17|
|The ATP condemns the series of events as “damaging on all fronts” and calls for greater clarity going forward regarding travel regulations and requirements facing players.|
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