Novak Djokovic: Tennis star caught Covid-19 six days after medical exemption deadline


Novak Djokovic tested positive to Covid six days after the Tennis Australia deadline to apply for a medical exemption – raising concerns the world No.1 was given special treatment by tournament organisers.

Federal Court documents on Saturday revealed the detained world No.1 had used his positive Covid-19 result from December 16 to gain a vaccination exemption from TA.

Unvaccinated players were told by TA in a December 7 letter they could apply for a temporary medical exemption if they had caught the virus in the past six months.

The applications needed to be submitted to an independent expert panel by December 10, six days before Djokovic’s positive result. 

The timing indicates Tennis Australia may have made an exception for the world’s best tennis star to get him into the country ahead of the January 17 Grand Slam.

Novak Djokovic (pictured with Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley) tested positive to Covid-19 six days after he was supposed to meet a deadline to apply for a medical exemption to travel for the Australian Open – raising concerns he was given special treatment

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley broke his silence on the saga claiming his staff have done an 'unbelievable job' despite the governing body coming under fire for giving the unvaxxed star wrong health advice

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley broke his silence on the saga claiming his staff have done an ‘unbelievable job’ despite the governing body coming under fire for giving the unvaxxed star wrong health advice

Djokovic tested positive to Covid on December 16 - six days after Tennis Australia's exemption application deadline

Djokovic tested positive to Covid on December 16 – six days after Tennis Australia’s exemption application deadline

Had Djokovic submitted his application before the deadline, he would not have been able to defend his Australian Open crown as he had yet to contract Covid. 

The leaked Tennis Australia letter first surfaced on Friday after being published by the Herald Sun. 

Court documents on Saturday showed that on December 30 Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer granted Djokovic a ‘medical exemption from Covid vaccination’ on the basis he had recently recovered from the virus.

The Serbian sports star on January 1 also received a ‘document from the Department of Home Affairs (which) told Djokovic that his ‘responses indicate(d) that (he met) the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia’, the legal filings said. 

However when Djokovic arrived at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday night he was questioned for hours by border officials, who then cancelled his visa. 

Djokovic, an outspoken critic of mandatory vaccination, has never disclosed his own vaccination status. 

He is challenging his visa cancellation in Australian federal court in hopes of winning his 21st Grand Slam at Melbourne Park later this month.

Djokovic remains in a detention hotel in Melbourne and his case will be heard in court on Monday.

Meanwhile another tennis star, Renata Voráčová, 38, who was held in detention alongside Djokovic, had her visa cancelled by border officials and was deported from Australia on a flight to Dubai after not appealing the decision to detain her. 

The women’s world No.80 had already played in a warm-up competition in Melbourne.  

Renata Vorá¿ová, 38, is pictured in the same detention hotel as Djokovic on Saturday. She had her visa ripped up by border force officials and was deported from Australia on a flight to Dubai after not appealing the decision to detain her

Renata Voráčová, 38, is pictured in the same detention hotel as Djokovic on Saturday. She had her visa ripped up by border force officials and was deported from Australia on a flight to Dubai after not appealing the decision to detain her

TIMELINE OF DJOKOVIC’S COVID DEBACLE

November 18: Novak Djokovic was granted a Temporary Activity Visa by the Australian Federal Government

December 7: Tennis Australia sent email informing unvaccinated players they could play in the Australian Open if they had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past six months

December 10: Tennis Australia’s deadline for temporary medical exemptions 

December 16: Djokovic tests positive to Covid-19

December 30: Tennis Australia grants Djokovic a medical exemption from Covid vaccination on grounds he’d recently recovered from virus, according to his lawyers

January 1: Djokovic is contacted by Department of Home Affairs telling him his ‘responses indicate(d) that (he met) the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia’

January 4: Djokovic posts Instagram photo telling his fans he’s going to Australia under a medical exemption

January 5: Djokovic arrives at Melbourne Airport late on Wednesday night before being questioned by Border Force officials after he did not meet requirements to enter the country

January 6: Djokovic undergoes six hours of interrogation before being taken to Melbourne’s Park Hotel where he will be kept until Monday

January 10: Djokovic’s case will be heard in court 

On Saturday Djokovic's lawyers said that on December 30, Tennis Australia's chief medical officer granted him a 'medical exemption from Covid vaccination' on the basis he had recently recovered from the virus

On Saturday Djokovic’s lawyers said that on December 30, Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer granted him a ‘medical exemption from Covid vaccination’ on the basis he had recently recovered from the virus

She and the men’s No.1 are believed to have been granted the same exemption by Tennis Australia – that they both were recently infected with Covid-19.

An Australian Border Force spokesman said another individual connected to the Australian Open ‘has voluntarily departed Australia following ABF inquiries’. 

Details have also emerged of his six-hour interrogation by Australian Border Force officials after landing at Melbourne Airport late on Wednesday night. 

Djokovic’s lawyers claim when he was finally given the chance to sleep, two supervisors quickly woke him and allegedly pressured him to accept the decision of cancelling his visa, telling him he wouldn’t be able to lodge an appeal until it was cancelled.

This was before the player was able to speak to Tennis Australia or his legal team.   

Voracova and Djokovic are believed to have been granted the same exemption relating to previous Covid infections

Voracova and Djokovic are believed to have been granted the same exemption relating to previous Covid infections

Djokovic had wanted to wait until after 8am to contact TA officials but a decision was made at 7.42am.

He had allegedly been told he could rest until 8.30am. 

During his interview with Border Force officials documents showed Djokovic told them: ‘you, the department, led me to believe on the same information I am giving you now, that I was authorised to enter Australia quarantine-free’. 

Tennis Australia’s boss Craig Tiley on Saturday broke his silence on the saga, claiming his staff have done an ‘unbelievable job’.

His claims came despite the governing body coming under fire for misinforming the unvaccinated tennis star. 

In a leaked video, Tiley acknowledged TA staff’s professionalism and diligence in what he firmly believes has been a thorough job in the lead up to the annual grand slam tournament.

Djokovic was reportedly interrogated by border force officials for six hours after arriving at Melbourne Airport

Djokovic was reportedly interrogated by border force officials for six hours after arriving at Melbourne Airport

‘There’s a lot of finger pointing going on and a lot of blaming going on, but I can assure you our team has done an unbelievable job and have done everything they possibly could according to all the instructions that they have been provided,’ he said in the clip.

‘We empathise with the situation we currently have. We are a player first event…we are working closely with Novak and his team.’

The Herald Sun earlier reported Tennis Australia had wrongly told unvaccinated players they could play in the tournament on the basis they had contracted the virus ‘where vaccination can be deferred until six months after infection’. 

However, TA had already been notified by the Federal Government in November that prior infections would not allow the unvaccinated into the country. 

It comes after Djokovic demanded he receive a personal chef and have access to a tennis court while staying in his Melbourne hotel, which is used to house refugees.

Australian Border Force officials have rejected his demands with the world No.1 told he will receive no special treatment at Carlton’s Park Hotel.  

Djokovic had requested a personal chef so he could maintain his very strict diet as the tennis pro lives with an intolerance to gluten. 

The world No.1 was detained by Australian border force officials after arriving on Wednesday night

The world No.1 was detained by Australian border force officials after arriving on Wednesday night

The 34-year-old had also asked to be transferred to a rented apartment with a tennis court so he could train and remain in top shape ahead of the Australian Open. 

Djokovic even offered to pay for private guards in the hopes he could make the move.

But Australian Border Force have rejected his requests and insisted he will remain at the hotel until a court rules on his deportation on Monday.

However, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic confirmed the athlete will be given gluten-free food, a laptop, and will have exercise equipment in his room. 

Djokovic has been forced to tough it out alongside 32 other refugees and asylum seekers who have previously complained about poor living conditions at the hotel that has been dubbed the ‘Alternative Place of Detention’.

Novak Djokovic requested a personal chef and access to a tennis court while staying in a Melbourne hotel before his demands were rejected by Australian Border Force

Novak Djokovic requested a personal chef and access to a tennis court while staying in a Melbourne hotel before his demands were rejected by Australian Border Force

The World No. 1 has been told he will receive no special treatment as he remains in immigration custody at the $109-a-night Park Hotel in Carlton

The World No. 1 has been told he will receive no special treatment as he remains in immigration custody at the $109-a-night Park Hotel in Carlton

Djokovic has been forced to tough it out alongside 32 other refugees and asylum seekers who have previously complained about poor living conditions at the hotel that has been dubbed the 'Alternative Place of Detention'

Djokovic has been forced to tough it out alongside 32 other refugees and asylum seekers who have previously complained about poor living conditions at the hotel that has been dubbed the ‘Alternative Place of Detention’

Maggot-riddled food, mouldy bread, fires, Covid outbreaks and bugs in rooms are among the complaints made by some of the guests. 

His detainment at the hotel has sparked rallies in Melbourne and Belgrade with the Serbian government claiming the conditions are not ‘befitting’ to the best sportsman while Djokovic’s family have accused the Australian government of treating their son like a ‘prisoner’. 

The site been used as a government detention hotel since December 2020, with staff and guests previously slamming it as an ‘incubator’ for Covid. 

Djokovic, who has refused to reveal how many, if any, Covid jabs he has received, will have to remain in his room where the windows are sealed shut and air is circulated by air conditioners. 

He has also spoken out from inside the hotel to thank his family and fans for their support as he waits to hear whether he will be deported.

The Serbian tennis ace, who has been held since Wednesday after he was barred from entering the country to compete in the Australian Open, also posted a Christmas message because today is Christmas Day in the Orthodox tradition.

‘Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,’ he wrote in English underneath a post in Serbian, in which he also thanked his family and countrymen. 

Jelena asked for 'love and respect' in message posted alongside a photo of the couple to the social media on Friday (pictured)

Jelena asked for ‘love and respect’ in message posted alongside a photo of the couple to the social media on Friday (pictured)

A second post against a background which featured an image of the birth of Christ said: ‘God’s peace. Christ is born. Happy Christmas. May God’s love invigorate and fulfill you all.’

The athlete’s post came after wife Jelena penned her own Instagram post lending support to her husband while calling for ‘love and forgiveness’.  

The 35-year-old mother-of-two, who met Djokovic as a teenager and has been censured for spreading Covid disinformation in the past, wrote on Instagram that she is ‘taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude (and understanding) in this moment for all that is happening.’

Djokovic has spoken out from inside the hotel to thank his family and fans for their support as he waits to hear whether he will be deported

Djokovic has spoken out from inside the hotel to thank his family and fans for their support as he waits to hear whether he will be deported

‘Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband,’ she added. ‘The only law that we should all respect across every single border is Love and respect for another human being.’ 

She also wished her husband a ‘happy Christmas’ because Orthodox Christians mark Jesus’s birthday on January 7. An Orthodox priest said it was ‘appalling’ that Djokovic is spending the day in a hotel likened to a ‘torture chamber’.

Her message was posted amid protests in Serbia led by Djokovic’s parents, who have slammed his treatment by Australian border officials – claiming he is being held ‘prisoner’ in ‘terrible’ conditions.

But Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has hit back, saying Djokovic can leave any time he wants and is staying of his own will while lawyers contest the border ruling.

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