Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open participation has provided a tumultuous backdrop to the tournament. The Serbian world No. 1 was detained in Australia last week over a visa and vaccination dispute, and on Tuesday released a lengthy statement addressing his movements in December 2020.
Here is a timeline of events so far.
- November 18
Djokovic is granted an Australian temporary entry visa to compete in the Australian Open, a tournament the 34-year-old has won nine times. Djokovic applied for the visa sometime in October or November 2021.
- November 29
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt reportedly writes to Australian Open Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley stating that a Covid-19 infection alone in the past six months — without full vaccination — does not meet the requirements for quarantine-free entry into the country, according to a leaked letter published in Australian local media.
- December 7
Tennis Australia reportedly sends a letter to players stating that a Covid-19 infection in the past six months, together with an accompanying letter from a doctor, would qualify as a valid medical exemption; and noting that players have until December 10 to submit their medical exemption applications, according to a leaked letter published in Australian local media.
- December 14
Djokovic attends a basketball game in Belgrade — after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with Covid-19 — according to a statement posted on Djokovic’s verified Instagram account on January 12, 2021.
- December 16
Djokovic takes a rapid antigen test — which is negative — and also takes an official and approved PCR test “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Djokovic’s statement.
Djokovic’s PCR test result comes back positive later that day, according to a copy of his test result in his affidavit, but his January 12 statement says he did not receive the notification of a positive PCR test result until after a tennis event on December 17.
Later, he is photographed at three events, according to images posted on his foundation’s official social media, and none of the participants are masked.
- December 17
Djokovic attends a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children, having taken a rapid antigen test prior, which was negative, according to Djokovic’s statement.
The Belgrade Tennis Association’s Facebook page posts various photos of Djokovic pictured alongside a group of young people at a tennis awards ceremony. One photo shows at least 26 — mostly young — people posing with him. Social distancing measures are not being observed and no masks are being worn.
At some point after the event, Djokovic receives the notification of a positive PCR test, according to his statement.
- December 18
Djokovic is at his tennis center in Belgrade to fulfill a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot. His statement says he socially distanced and wore a mask except when his photograph was being taken.
Journalist Franck Ramella and photographer Etienne Garnier were not told Djokovic was Covid-positive before, during or after the interview with the tennis star in Belgrade, the French sports newspaper reported on January 12.
The L’Equipe article states Ramella has since tested negative to Covid-19. It does not mention Garnier’s health.
- December 22
Djokovic tests negative for the virus, according to his affidavit.
• December 23
Djokovic has antibodies to the coronavirus a document issued by the Public Health of Serbia Institute shows, supporting the tennis player’s contention that he had recovered from Covid-19 when he arrived in Australia for the Australian Open.
CNN has contacted the Public Health of Serbia Institute in Belgrade to ask if antibodies could have come from a previous infection in June 2020.
- December 30
Djokovic receives a medical exemption from Tennis Australia allowing him to enter Australia without Covid vaccination or quarantine on the grounds that he has just recovered from Covid, according to court documents.
Before the year ends, video and images appear to show Djokovic in Spain and Serbia in the two-week period before traveling to Australia. Djokovic had ticked ‘No’ on a travel declaration when asked if he had traveled in the 14 days prior to his arrival into Australia, according to court documents obtained by CNN.
- January 1
Djokovic’s team submits his travel declaration to the Australian Ministry of Home Affairs, which notifies them that it has been assessed and he is cleared for quarantine-free arrival, according to the affidavit.
- January 2
Djokovic receives a Border Travel Permit by the state government of Victoria, according to his affidavit, where Melbourne is located and where the Australian Open will take place.
- January 5
Having left Spain the day before, Djokovic arrives in Melbourne close to midnight. His passport is taken and he is escorted to a small room where he is interviewed by border control officers, according to the affidavit.
- January 6
In a news conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirms and reads out the letter sent on November 29 from Health Minister Hunt to Tennis Australia stating that a Covid-19 infection alone in the past six months does not meet the requirements for quarantine-free entry.
- January 10
Djokovic’s hearing commences, with the judge deciding to quash the cancellation of his visa and order his release from detention. The judge, though, says Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke reserves the right to deport Djokovic.
- January 11
The Australian Border Force (ABF) is investigating whether Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration ahead of arrival in Australia.
- January 12
Djokovic says his team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify the issue of his travel declaration.
However, Australian Border Force (ABF) officials are investigating possible inconsistencies in documents related to Djokovic’s December PCR result as well as the tennis player’s movements in the days after he tested positive for Covid-19 in Serbia, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
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