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Djokovic saga: New questions raised over his travel declaration

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Novak Djokovic declared he had not travelled in the 14 days before arriving in Australia, despite being seen in Serbia and Spain in that time, his application to enter enter the country shows.

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The tennis world No.1 was back training on a Melbourne tennis court within hours of his visa being reinstated but he still faces being kicked out of Australia.

But despite a win in court on Monday, the 34-year-old Serbian still faces the prospect of deportation less than a week before the first grand slam of the new year.

There are fresh questions over his application to enter the country after documents released by Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reveal Djokovic told authorities he had not travelled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia.

Monte Carlo-based Djokovic touched down in Melbourne just before midnight on Wednesday, answering “no” to the question about previous travel on his Australian Travel Declaration form.

But the reigning Australian Open champ was filmed playing tennis in the streets of the Serbian capital Belgrade on Christmas Day, and training in Spain on December 31 – both within the 14-day window.

The declaration notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offence, while civil penalties are also available.

The fresh controversy broke as it was revealed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Serbian counterpart asked that the two governments work closely on issues concerning the tennis star’s visa.

The prime minister’s office said Mr Morrison had a constructive call with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Tuesday morning.

The leaders agreed to stay in contact on the issue, and to further strengthening the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Djokovic told immigration officers Tennis Australia completed the declaration on his behalf, but it was noted by the officer who cancelled his visa that the sporting body would have facilitated that “based on information the visa holder provided”.

The tennis star has also faced scrutiny after court documents revealed he tested positive to Covid-19 on December 16, days before he was photographed unmasked at public events including a trophy presentation for junior players.

Djokovic, who admitted to immigration authorities he is not vaccinated against Covid-19, returned a negative PCR test on December 22.

The 20-time grand slam winner, who will be hoping to overtake fellow 20-timers Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Melbourne tournament, also faces the prospect of his visa being cancelled by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

“The minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing,” a spokesman for the minister said late on Monday.

Djokovic, however, says he is focused on the upcoming tournament.

“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen I remain focused on that,” Djokovic tweeted just after midnight on Tuesday.

“I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”

At a press conference in Serbia, Djokovic’s family spoke about the injustice of his detention, with his mother Dijana claiming he was “subjected to torture”.

“This is his biggest win in his career. It’s bigger than any of the grand slams he has won,” she said.

His father Srdjan said the court’s decision was a win for free speech and the free world.

“He was there just to do his job. Tennis is his job, his love … and that right they wanted to take away from him,” he said.

Tennis Australia told Djokovic’s lawyers last week they need a definitive position on his immigration status by Tuesday in order for him to compete.

The initial decision to cancel his visa was quashed by Judge Anthony Kelly on Monday, after government lawyers conceded the decision made during an early morning immigration interview was unreasonable in the circumstances.

He was told at 5.20am on Thursday that he had until 8.30am to respond to a notice of intention to cancel his visa, but the visa was cancelled at 7.29am.

A transcript of the immigration interview revealed Djokovic’s frustrations at the short timeframe, describing himself as being put in a “very awkward position”.

His lawyer Nick Wood SC said Djokovic declared before boarding his flight to Australia that he had a medical contraindication for vaccination and provided evidence in the form of an exemption from Tennis Australia.

Judge Kelly asked: “What more could this man have done?”

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