Novak Djokovic contracted COVID-19 last month but was not experiencing symptoms and had written clearance from Australia’s immigration department before traveling to the country with a medical exemption from its vaccination rules, his lawyers said in a court filing on Saturday.
The No. 1-ranked Djokovic, who remained in immigration detention in Australia after having his visa canceled on arrival Thursday, returned his first positive coronavirus test on Dec. 16, but 14 days later he “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 72 hours,” the filing said.
On Jan. 1, Djokovic received “a document from the Department of Home Affairs [that] told Mr. Djokovic that his ‘responses indicate[d] that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia,'” the documents added.
Djokovic was denied entry at the Melbourne airport late Wednesday after border officials canceled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all noncitizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic was given a medical exemption backed by the Victoria state government and Australian Open organizers based on information he supplied to two independent medical panels.
But it has since emerged that the medical exemption, allowed for people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the previous six months, was deemed invalid by border authorities.
Djokovic is preparing for his challenge in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday.
In a video message given to Australian Open staffers, tournament director Craig Tiley said the event is working to help Djokovic resolve the matter.
“There’s been a circumstance that relates to a couple of players, Novak particularly … in a situation that is very difficult,” Tiley said in the video, according to News Corp. newspapers. “We’re a player-first event. We’re working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, that are in this situation.”
Djokovic was one of two players put into detention in a hotel in Melbourne that also houses refugees and asylum seekers. The other competitor was 38-year-old doubles player Renata Voracova, but she left Australia on Saturday. Voracova had been in Australia for a week before an investigation by the border officials.
“[Renata] Voracova left Australia on Saturday based on her own decision to end her participation in the tournament due to complications with her visas,” the Czech ministry said.
“The decision was not based on her expulsion from the country,” it said.
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.