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Djokovic Admits To Errors As He Awaits Decision On Play In Australian Open

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Australian Open.
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic has admitted to making an "error of judgement" by going ahead with an interview with a French journalist while positive for COVID-19 and conceded that a member of his team submitted a false declaration to the Australian government about his travel history.

But the world No. 1 insisted other reports about his activities following his positive test for COVID-19 were "misinformation" and had been "very hurtful" to his family.

Djokovic made the comments on January 12 on Instagram as he addressed controversies surrounding his efforts to be cleared to defend his Australian Open title while unvaccinated.

The 34-year-old entered Australia last week with a vaccine exemption due to a positive test for COVID-19 on December 16.

The following day, however, he appeared without a mask at the launch of a Serbian stamp bearing his image and at an event in Belgrade for young tennis players.

Djokovic's Instagram post made no mention of the stamp ceremony, but it said that he had only received the positive results of a PCR test for COVID-19 on December 17 after he attended the youth tennis event.

Djokovic said that on December 18 he canceled all events but decided to go ahead with the interview with the French publication L'Equipe and a photo shoot.

"I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L'Equipe interview, as I didn't want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken," he said.

"While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment," he said.

Djokovic's statement also addressed a reported discrepancy in his travel declaration, which was published by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia earlier this week.

The declaration showed that he confirm he would not travel in the 14 days before landing in Australia, but he reportedly had been in Serbia before departing from Spain.

He attributed it to "human error" on the part of the member of his support team.

"On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf -- as I told immigration officials on my arrival -- and my agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia."

The statement came as Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke considered whether to again cancel Djokovic's visa and deport him ahead of the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.

Hawke has the discretionary power to cancel Djokovic's visa, and a spokesman for the minister said he was still considering taking action, a process that would be extended to assess the new information.

Australia has a policy barring noncitizens or nonresidents from entry unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but offers a medical exemption.

Djokovic landed in Australia on January 5 and after the player said he had been given a medical exemption by the organizer of the Australian Open from its vaccination rules to compete based on his positive test last month.

Djokovic was sent to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, angering many in Serbia. On January 10 an Australian judge reinstated the visa, freeing him to return to his training regimen.

Though the court ruled that the visa should still be valid, it did not touch on whether the reason for his exemption was valid, leaving the question to Hawke.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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