The top-ranked men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, said on Wednesday that a travel document he gave to Australian border officers last week contained incorrect information, as authorities investigated whether he should be deported.
Mr. Djokovic further claimed that after testing positive for the coronavirus last month, he participated in an interview and a picture session in his native Serbia, in apparent violation of the country’s rules for afflicted people. Officials in Australia have stated that they are investigating whether Mr. Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, constitutes a public health danger.
The tennis player made the remarks in a social media statement that he said was meant to «clarify misconceptions» about the weeks leading up to his arrival in Melbourne for the Australian Open. He was held for days by Australian border agents before a federal judge ordered his release on Monday.
Mr. Djokovic’s remark, however, did not entirely answer a slew of queries about his desire to stay in Australia and win a record 21st Grand Slam title. Among them are when he found out he had a positive test result and how his travel paperwork came to falsely state that he had not flown internationally in the 14 days leading up to his arrival in Australia.
Mr. Djokovic’s comment on Instagram, which he said would be his final words about his hardship in Australia, came as Australia’s immigration minister indicated he was still debating whether to use his personal powers to cancel the player’s visa. Immigration officials were also looking into anomalies in Mr. Djokovic’s papers when he tried to enter Australia last week with an exemption from the Covid-19 immunization requirement.
Mr. Djokovic claimed he suffered a Covid infection in mid-December, and Australian tennis officials granted him an exemption. He had faced backlash after photos surfaced on social media showing him at gatherings while allegedly sick with the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Mr. Djokovic said that he had taken a P.C.R. test on Dec. 16 after some persons at a basketball game he had attended two days prior tested positive for the coronavirus. He did a quick antigen test despite having no symptoms «out of an excess of caution,» he said, and it came back negative.
He visited a tennis event in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, on Dec. 17 while awaiting his P.C.R. result, he added, where he handed awards to children. He claimed that before attending the event, he took another fast antigen test, which came back negative, and that his P.C.R. test did not come back positive until after it was over.
He agreed to an interview and photo session with the French sports weekly L’Equipe on December 18 «to fulfil a longstanding promise,» he stated.
«I felt obligated to conduct the L’Equipe interview because I didn’t want to let the journalist down,» Mr. Djokovic said. «However, I ensured I socially detached myself and wore a mask except when my photograph was taken.»
«While I returned home after the interview to isolate for the required period,» he continued, «On reflection, this was a mistake of judgment, and I agree that I should have rescheduled this obligation.»
It wasn’t the first time Mr. Djokovic had to apologise for his flippant behaviour during the pandemic. He held a tennis tournament in mid-2020, as the virus raged in Europe and worldwide, after which he and several others tested positive.
While Mr. Djokovic said in a statement on Wednesday that he «did not receive notification of a positive PCR test» until Dec. 17 — after the children’s tournament — documentation he presented to Australian officials as he attempted to enter the nation said the result had been back the day before.
His positive P.C.R. test was taken at 1:05 p.m. on Dec. 16 and the positive result was returned at 8:19 p.m. on the same day, according to a copy of his medical certificate. «On 16 December 2021, I was tested and diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID),» he said in his affidavit submitted to an Australian court. He didn’t say when he found out about his alleged positive test.
Mr. Djokovic would have «obviously violated the laws» in Serbia if he had known he was positive for the coronavirus before attending the awards event on Dec. 17, according to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.