NOVAK Djokovic is used to hitting headlines for his sensational tennis skills – but the controversial star has this week found himself embroiled in a vaccine row that threatens to eclipse the sport’s first major competition of the year.
The anti-vax tennis ace has been accused of repeatedly flouting Covid rules as he arrived in Australia unjabbed – sparking an ongoing battle over whether he should be deported.
Djokovic has not openly spoken about his jab status, but last year did admit that he was “opposed” to vaccination.
Since testing positive for the virus on December 16, it’s claimed Djokovic may have broken the rules five times.
Travel form ‘lie’
Djokovic could face the prospect of prison over claims he lied on his travel forms as shock snaps appear to show he travelled before jetting off to Australia.
The anti-vaxxer ticked a box claiming he had not travelled to any other countries in the 14 days prior to his departure for the Australian Open in Melbourne.
He landed in Oz late on Janaury 5, but social media posts show he spent time in Spain during that period – and was pictured practising on a tennis court in Marbella.
On its website, the Home Affairs Department warns that giving “false or misleading information” to the government is “a serious offence” carrying a possible jail term.
“If convicted, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months,” it says.
Tennis ace Djokovic – who is based in Monte Carlo – was filmed playing tennis in the streets of the Serbian capital Belgrade on December 25, and a picture shared on Twitter also shows him beaming beside handball player Petar Djordjic in Belgrade the same day.
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Then days later, the 34-year-old was reportedly filmed training in Spain on December 31 and posing for a group photograph the same day.
Djokovic was also snapped player football in Marbella, Spain, with his brother Marko and a coach on January 4.
Those dates fall within the 14-day period before the reigning Australian Open champ touched down in Melbourne late on January 5, having flown out from Spain via Dubai.
Australian Border Force officials are now investigating whether Djokovic lied on his visa forms.
Event after positive test
According to court documents, Djokovic tested positive for Covid on December 16.
In Serbia, those who return a positive result are legally required to isolate for 14 days.
But that same day, he attended a panel discussion and a ceremony for the unveiling of a stamp in his honour in the Serbian captial Belgrade.
Pictures shared by Djokovic the following day on Twitter from the event show him maskless shaking hands with someone.
Other snaps show him, again without a face covering, as a panellist at an indoor discussion for his charity foundation.
Evidence submitted shows by Djokovic’s lawyers says he took a PCR test just after 1pm. Documentation from the Institute of Public Health of Serbia states the result came back postive the same day, at around 8pm.
It is unclear at what point the World No1 was told he had Covid.
At a press conference held by Djokovic’s close family on Monday, his brother was asked whether it was true Djokovic “tested positive and he knew he was positive with Covid?”.
He replied: “Yes, the whole process was public and all the documents that are public are legal”.
Despite testing positive on December 16, pictures have emerged of Djokovic hugging a child and not wearing a mask during a ceremony at the Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade.
The event reportedly took place on December 17.
Djokovic, who was not wearing a mask, attended the Tennis Association of Belgrade’s event at his tennis centre and posed for pics with the youngsters.
Snaps show him beaming individually with grinning youths, while another photo shows him at the centre of a large group of children.
In Serbia, social distancing measures are still enforced with it mandatory to “maintain physical distance of at least 1.5m in all public spaces”.
And face masks are required in all public spaces indoors, and outdoors, when the area is crowded.
Breaking the rules can result in a fine.
Just two days after catching Covid on December 18, French newspaper L’Equipe claim he took part in a photo shoot with one of its photographers.
He reportedly posed, maskless, with the paper’s Champion of Champion trophy, which is awarded in recognition of the most outstanding sportsman of the year.
According to L’Equipe, Djokovic wore a face-covering during the interview.
But for the photo shoot itself, he reportedly took it off.
Djokovic’s family quickly halted their press conference on Monday after a question was asked about what happened after the day after he tested positive for Covid on December 16.
Oz jab row
Djokovic may also have flouted Covid rules by turning up in Australia without proper medical exemption to not have the jab.
On January 4, the anti-vaxxer boasted was heading to Melbourne to play at the Australian Open after being given an exemption.
But on arrival, the Serbian ace was held at an immigration centre after his visa was dramatically cancelled, and then housed in a quarantine hotel.
Lawyers for the 20-time Grand Slam winner argued that he didn’t need to have the vaccine as he had already had Covid and that border force officials hadn’t given enough notice to revoke his visa.
A judge on Monday ruled should be released from detention.
But despite a judge ruling the decision to cancel his visa was “unreasonable”, the anti-vaxxer could still be booted out of the country by the Aussie government.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could use “personal discretion” to move ahead with another cancellation – which would see him banned from Oz for three years.
The Aussie government has confirmed Mr Hawke is still considering whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
A spokesman said: “In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter.
“As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further.”
It comes after Czech player Renata Voracova was deported after her visa was cancelled over her Covid vaccine status.
Source: The Sun