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Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 in December


Lawyers for Novak Djokovic filed court documents in his challenge against deportation from Australia that showed the tennis star contracted COVID-19 last month, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday.

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic was denied entry at the Melbourne airport late Wednesday after border officials canceled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Djokovic was given a medical exemption backed by the Victoria state government and Australian Open organizers based on information he supplied to two independent medical panels.

But it has since emerged that the medical exemption, allowed for people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the previous six months, was deemed invalid by border authorities.

Djokovic is in an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne preparing for his challenge in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday.

Supporters of Serbia's Novak Djokovic protest in Belgrade, Serbia.

Supporters of Serbia's Novak Djokovic protest in Belgrade, Serbia.AP

The ABC reported that in the documents filed Saturday, Djokovic's lawyers said Tennis Australia on Jan. 1 granted the 34-year-old Serbian player a "medical exemption from COVID vaccination" on the grounds that he had recently recovered from the coronavirus.

The exemption certification said the date of Djokovic's first positive test was Dec. 16, 2021, and that he had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours.

The court submission said Djokovic received a document from Australia's Department of Home Affairs saying that his travel declaration had been assessed and that his responses indicated that he met the requirements for quarantine-free arrival in Australia.

Djokovic could be barred for up to three years

If he fails to have his visa cancellation overturned and gets deported for not having enough evidence to support a medical exemption to Australia's COVID-19 vaccination rules, Djokovic risks missing more than one Australian Open and could be barred for up to three years.

In an emailed response to The Associated Press about what could transpire if Djokovic loses his legal fight, the Australian Border Force said: "A person whose visa has been canceled may be subject to a three-year exclusion period that prevents the grant of a further temporary visa."

Rafa Nadal

"The exclusion period will be considered as part of any new visa application and can be waived in certain circumstances, noting each case is assessed on its own merits."

Australian Open organizers have not commented publicly, except to tell Australian newspapers that no players have been misled over the vaccination requirements.

Tournament director Craig Tiley has continued working with Djokovic, hoping to get the defending champion into the tournament that starts a week from Monday. Tiley's video message to Australian Open staff about the tournament's "difficult time in the public arena" was published in News Corp. newspapers Saturday. "There's been a circumstance that relates to a couple of players, Novak particularly . . . in a situation that is very difficult," Tiley said in the video. "We're a player-first event. We're working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, that are in this situation."

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