Novak Djokovic now has an opponent to prepare for in the first round of the Australian Open, that’s despite a decision over his visa still up in the air just days before the tournament starts. But the Serbian can now be reasonably expected to take on compatriot next week despite a delay to the draw suggesting that a decision over his visa from minister for immigration Alex Hawke was imminent.
Hawke is still considering the possibility of “a personal power of cancellation”, a move which could yet drag on for several days. The men’s world number one broke his silence over a number of accusations of breaking Covid protocol on Wednesday, and he conceded that he broke isolation and conducted an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe despite knowing that he was positive for the virus, such a transgression could result in up to five years in prison if proven that he lied about his positive test.
Djokovic’s problems rumble on further, too, with yet further questions, possibly from the Australian Border Force, over claims he misconstrued information on his travel declaration form, saying he had not travelled elsewhere before heading Down Under – despite photos emerging of him training in Spain just before the new year. Andy Murray has acknowledged Djokovic is likely to have to answer questions in public, too, after the isolation controversy.
Follow all the latest news and updates as Djokovic prepares for the Australian Open below.
Roger Federer’s advice to Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open first round opponent
Novak Djokovic’s first-round Australian Open opponent Miomir Kecmanovic picked up some valuable advice from Roger Federer on his way to making it as a pro.
The 22-year-old Serbian was a ‘Next Gen reporter’ for the ATP Tour at the 2019 Miami Open and spoke with the former world No 1 about the key to making it on Tour.
“You’ve been on the tour longer than I’ve been alive almost, so do you have any tips that I could use out here?” Kecmanovic asked.
“Enjoy yourself, and you have enough time,” the current world No 16 told him. I think when you’re young you always think like ‘it has to happen tomorrow’.
“Just have a blast out there because I wish I was still your age and could do it all over again, so I’m a little bit sad I’m at the back end of my career. But I’m sure you’ll have a great career.”
Novak Djokovic ‘playing by his own rules’ in Australian visa saga, Stefanos Tsitsipas claims
The No 4 seed for the Australian Open 2022 insists Djokovic put the Grand Slam at risk with his actions to enter the country with an exemption for the Covid-19 vaccination, despite clearly-outlined rules and regulations given to the players from the ATP.
Djokovic is still waiting to hear if the Australian government will push to revoke his visa once more after admitting to providing misleading information over his whereabouts following a positive Covid test last month.
When will Australian immigration minister decide Novak Djokovic’s fate?
The Serbian awaits the decision of Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke, who must weigh whether to revoke the 20-time Grand Slam winner’s visa.
Pictures on social media showed the Serbian in Belgrade over Christmas and training in Spain at New Year.
Novak Djokovic: The tennis star always seeking to walk his own path
“The one hero in this whole Novak Djokovic saga is Rafael Nadal – and I think [we] should listen to him,” former vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said on the radio on Sunday. “I encourage everyone to get their jab.”
He was being asked about the case of the men’s tennis No 1’s possible deportation from Australia, where the Serbian was denied entry after landing in Melbourne last week to defend his Australian Open title. An earlier decision to grant a medical exemption to play had infuriated many living in a country that has some of the world’s strictest Covid rules. The appeal hearing against deportation will be heard on Monday at 10am local time (11pm Sunday GMT).
Djokovic has not disclosed his vaccine status, but in April 2020, before vaccines for Covid-19 were available, said that he was opposed to vaccination before later clarifying his position by adding that he was “no expert” and would keep an “open mind” – but wanted to have “an option to choose what’s best for my body” and “wouldn’t want to be forced” to have one to travel. His lawyers have said a vaccine exemption was granted to enter Australia after a Covid infection on 16 December (although Djokovic tweeted pictures on 17 December of him maskless appearance at a ceremony in Belgrade – it is unclear whether he knew he had Covid when the photos were taken).
Novak Djokovic: Timeline of tennis star’s visa saga in Australia
Novak Djokovic has been successful in his fight to quash the decision to rescind his Australian visa in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, paving the way for him to defend his Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
The saga is not finished, however, with a possible three-year ban from the country still hanging over Djokovic’s head given the potential for a discretionary call from the immigration minister to supersede the home affairs minister who was included as part of the court case.
The saga has become a major diplomatic incident with Australians furious that Djokovic, who has openly opposed vaccinations, was granted an exemption to enter the country.
Novak Djokovic could face five years in prison if found to have misled court over Covid test
Novak Djokovic could face five years in prison if found to have lied about his positive Covid test to Australia authorities.
Djokovic said in a sworn affidavit to the Federal Circuit Court that he was diagnosed with coronavirus on 16 December. “On 16 December 2021, I was tested and diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (Covid),” he said. The judge eventually ruled that Djokovic should not have his visa revoked and should be allowed to stay in Australia to play tennis.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: Novak Djokovic put Australian Open at risk
Stefanos Tsitsipas insists Novak Djokovic put the Australian Open at risk with his actions to enter Australia with an exemption for Covid vaccination.
The Greek player, who is the No 4 seed in Melbourne, also claims he has not played by the rules and has made the other players who took the vaccine “look like fools”.
The Greek player said: “For sure he has been playing by his own rules, doing something not many players have the guts to go and do. Especially after ATP announced certain criteria to enter the country.
“Nobody would have thought I could come to Australia unvaccinated and not follow the protocols they gave me.
“It takes a lot of daring to do, and putting the Grand Slam at risk. I don’t think many players could do that. I chose to go and be 100 percent ready for whatever was to come and not have to think about anything else.
“For me it worked in one way, for Novak another way, it doesn’t mean mine is the right one and Novak’s is the wrong one. It’s just each person’s perception.
“There are two ways to look at it. Every single player almost, the stats say 90 percent of the players have been vaccinated and did what they had to do to come and perform in Australia. One side of it is we followed the protocols to compete in Australia and been very disciplined in that part.
“The other sense I’d say it kind of seemed like not everybody is playing by the rules. A very small majority of that percentage chose to follow their own way. It makes the majority look like they’re all fools or something.”
Is it possible to separate Novak Djokovic the player from the person?
Four nights after being “tortured, harassed and crucified” in a detention hotel, Novak Djokovic was resurrected inside the Rod Laver Arena on Monday afternoon. In Melbourne’s central business district, the celebrations of his disciples the night before lingered in the air as molecules of teargas. Ten thousand miles away in Belgrade, his parents hailed their son as a saviour of free will at a triumphant press conference while Nigel Farage blathered in the background about cigarettes and the big state.
It was the dramatic culmination – at least for now – of a legal marathon that has encompassed all manner of extremes and melodrama, from the hostility of Australia’s immigration policies to the mystery of Djokovic’s medical exemption. So perhaps, after the world No 1 was finally released by officials at the Park Hotel on Monday, it was inevitable that he would rush to the place where he has always held supreme control. Posing on the court where he has won almost half of his grand slam titles, alongside his coach, fitness trainer and physio, Djokovic beamed with a smile and reaffirmed his intent to lift the Norman Brookes Trophy for a 10th time this month.
For all the pandemonium that greeted judge Anthony Kelly’s verdict on Monday, Djokovic’s participation still remains in grave doubt. His legal victory has been clouded by the enduring scrutiny over a purported positive PCR test on 16 December, after which he was photographed maskless at several public events, and further suspicion has since arisen over factual errors on his travel declaration form. Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, confirmed on Tuesday that he is still “thoroughly” considering whether to use his discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa again.
Spain denies Novak Djokovic investigation over alleged Covid breach
Novak Djokovic is not being investigated by the Spanish government over a separate alleged Covid rules breach to his current difficulties with the Australian government.
Reports on Wednesday suggested authorities were looking into a possible legal issue after it emerged Djokovic entered the country days after testing positive for Covid en route to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
Since 20 September, citizens from Serbia are required to have a vaccine certificate or show a special exemption to enter a Spanish territory.
Novak Djokovic visa row is just latest step in a career of contradictions
In the same vein as his unerring domination of tennis, Novak Djokovic has rarely left anything to nuance. Within the world of sport, he has been cast as either an unstoppable heir or a cold iconoclast on a relentless pursuit of records. On matters of medical health, the twenty-times grand slam champion’s de facto second court, his reputation as a conspiracist or – at least in his own eyes – a martyr has always been rather more self-inflicted.
And so as the drama and diplomacy of Djokovic’s purgatory in Melbourne continues to unfold, with the Serbian’s detention at the Park Hotel now extended until Monday, it is hard not to feel as though we’ve been bubbling towards an eruption like this for years. Djokovic’s life has always been founded on an obstinate self-belief, procuring immense success and provoking regular controversy, particularly during the pandemic. Eventually, though, there had to be a flashpoint where the 34-year-old’s warped ideology collided with reality and couldn’t still triumph regardless.
Of course, there is still no absolute clarity over whether Djokovic will be granted permission to compete at the Australian Open. After ten hours spent in stasis at Tullamarine airport on Wednesday, he was transferred to the supposedly bug-riddled quarantine facility in Carlton before being serenaded into the night by fans. His father, Srdjan, remained adamant that Djokovic was “the Spartacus of the new world” and that “he is like water and water paves its own path”. The delusions of grandeur are seemingly hereditary, but few can doubt Djokovic’s conviction in getting his own way.