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8 Jan, 2022 11:49

Djokovic lawyers reveal he had Covid in December

The world number one was granted a medical exemption to play at the Australian Open after recovering from Covid at the end of 2021, say his attorneys
Djokovic lawyers reveal he had Covid in December

Lawyers for tennis icon Novak Djokovic have revealed he was given an exemption to defend his Australia Open crown after testing positive for Covid in December.

Court documents released by Djokovic's legal team on Saturday claim that he had been given a temporary visa to enter the country while also receiving what they said was a "medical exemption from Covid vaccination" after being diagnosed with the virus on December 16. 

Djokovic's lawyers also stated that the Serb "had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours" by December 30, 14 days after his infection was confirmed. He arrived in Melbourne on January 4 following a 15-hour flight from Dubai. 

The documents are the first admission that Djokovic had recently contracted Covid-19. 

The 34-year-old's representatives say a document from the Australian Department of Home Affairs told the star that his responses indicated that he met "the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia".

The exemption was cleared by two independent medical panels arranged by Tennis Australia ahead of the start of the tournament on January 17, when Djokovic is hoping to secure a fourth successive title and a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam crown. 

However, Djokovic was detained by Australian Border Force (ABF) officials upon his arrival and held for eight hours with almost no contact with his legal team, prompting a furious row over his eligibility to enter the country that has captivated public interest in both Australia and Serbia.

ABF officials stated that Djokovic had "failed to provide appropriate evidence" to immigration officials at Melbourne Airport, and that a prior Covid infection was not grounds for medical exemption.

Djokovic remains in isolation at a hotel close to Melbourne Park as he awaits a Monday hearing to determine if he is to be deported or will be granted dispensation to compete at the Australian Open.

Djokovic's legal team have also requested that their client should be moved to a "more suitable place of detention" amid reports that the hotel, which houses refugees and asylum seekers, is of a very low standard.

Outlets have also claimed that Djokovic has had a request to be supplied with a personal chef turned down.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has backed his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison's handling of the situation after Morrison stated that "no one is above the rules" when it comes to a country's immigration laws.

"It's a matter for Australia and they're a friendly government," said Johnson. "I have the utmost respect for the Australian government and that's a matter for them.

"But clearly, I share very strongly the view of the Australian authorities – it's a very good idea to get vaccinated."

Johnson's view of Australia's handling of the Djokovic situation isn't exactly shared by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who warned officials to "stop harassing" the world's top tennis player.

"Just got off the phone with with Novak Djokovic," Vucic said on Instagram. "I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the harassment of the best tennis player in the world in the shortest possible period.

"In accordance with all the norms of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and truth. Otherwise, Novak is strong, as we all know him."