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Novak Djokovic Clarifies COVID-19 Positive Test Timeline Amid Skepticism

Defending men's champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Although an Australian court ordered for Novak Djokovic to be released from detention and have his restored, the government is still threatening to cancel his visa a second time and deport him. Various reports amid the drawn-out process have led tennis fans around the world to question the specifics of his positive COVID-19 test from last month. 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion traveled to Australia after Victoria state authorities granted him a medical exemption to the country’s strict vaccination requirements. Per his lawyer, it was granted because the tennis star tested positive for COVID-19 last month. However, upon arrival earlier this week, Australian Border Force rejected his exemption as invalid and barred him from entering the country.

Djokovic posted a statement on his social media accounts on Wednesday from Australia saying that he wanted to “address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result.” Reports had emerged that the tennis star had attended events while positive for COVID-19 and that he had checked a box stating he had not traveled in the last 14 days despite being seen in Spain and Serbia during the time period, per the Associated Press

Djokovic said in his statement that he attended a basketball game on Dec. 14 “after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive for COVID 19.” He continued, saying he had no symptoms but still took a “rapid antigen test” two days later. Although that came back as negative, he took “an official and approved PCR test on that same day” (Dec. 16). 

Djokovic proceeded to attend a tennis event in Belgrade, but per the rapid antigen test he took prior to the event, he was still negative. 

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event,” the statement read. Although he was slated for a L'Equipe photoshoot and interview at his tennis center in Belgrade, Djokovic canceled all other events but the long-standing commitment to the L'Equipe interview. 

Djokovic, who is looking to claim a record 21st major championship in Australia, said he remained distanced and masked except when his photograph was taken, but admits that he should have rescheduled the commitment in hindsight. 

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Djokovic's travel declaration had also raised questions, and he passed the buck to his agent on that issue, saying his agent apologized for “the administrative mistake of ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia.”

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.”

The statement comes after two Australian news anchors went viral for questioning the potential mistakes on Djokovic's visa application, seemingly unaware that their off-air dressing down of the tennis legend was being recorded.

"Whatever way you look at it, Novak Djokovic is a lying, sneaky ass----," Melbourne's 7NEWS anchor Rebecca Maddern said. 

Djokovic's father had been vocal about how his son's case “is closed.” 

“The whole situation regarding Novak Djokovic is closed by the verdict of the Australian court,” Srdjan Djokovic told Bosnian Serb TV station RTRS on Tuesday. He continued, saying, per the AP, ”An Australian court and an independent judge, after seven hours of examining all the facts, determined that there are no ambiguities and that Novak is free to enter Australia and do his job.” 

Djokovic has begun practicing for the Australian Open since winning his appeal this week.

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