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Djokovic's bizarre admission: I was wrong about my travel history but I didn't lie

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Tennis ace Novak Djokovic has admitted he was wrong to have declared he did not travel in the fortnight before he arrived in Australia but insisted it was not a deliberate lie or that he intended to mislead immigration authorities.

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Djokovic also admitted he attended a media interview in Belgrade in December when he knew he had Covid-19.

In what he said was an attempt to clear up “very hurtful” misinformation, he insisted that declaring he had not travelled was an “administrative mistake” made by his agent, and not deliberate.

Djokovic had been filmed playing tennis in the streets of Belgrade in Serbia on Christmas Day and training in Spain on December 31, both within the 14-day window.

It comes as Immigration Minister Alex Hawke considers whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa via discretionary powers, after a federal court had earlier quashed his previous cancellation.

Tennis Australia is sweating on the ruling given the draw for the Open will be conducted on Thursday, with Djokovic the top seed.

While the 34-year-old hoped to “alleviate broader concerns in the community about my presence in Australia,” the statement exposed the recklessness of the 20-times grand slam champion.

“Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa,” a spokesperson for Mr Hawke said.

“Naturally, this will affect the timeframe for a decision.”

A decision by the minister isn’t expected until Thursday at the earliest after Djokovic’s lawyers presented further information.

In a statement released on his Instagram, Djokovic said he had not yet received the results of a PCR test taken on December 16 when he attended a tennis event in Belgrade the following day.

But after receiving a positive result, he attended a media interview at his tennis centre in Belgrade on December 18.

“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” Djokovic wrote.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, upon reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”

Djokovic, who is in Melbourne for the Australian Open, said his agent “sincerely apologised” for ticking the incorrect box regarding his previous travel.

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” he said.

“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.”

Djokovic was detained in immigration detention last week for arriving into the country unvaccinated with an invalid exemption, in breach of Australia’s border laws, and his visa was cancelled as a result.

However, the Federal Circuit Court quashed the decision, after government lawyers conceded the decision made during an early morning immigration interview was unreasonable in the circumstances.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan had earlier encouraged Australia to move on from the saga as the grand slam approaches.

“(Djokovic) got Covid, he has natural immunity and is a low health risk but the decision was made and the court overturned it. I think we have to move on now and de-escalate it as much as possible,” Senator Canavan told the Nine Network.

“If he has said something wrong on his (immigration) form, OK, the law needs to apply there … (but) while I’ve never been a massive Novak fan, I thought he was honest and open through the interview process.”

Director Of Communications at immigration firm Solve Law Nina Markovic-Khaze says the spotlight on Djokovic has turned into a political scandal with the potential to damage Australia’s international reputation.

“If Mr Hawke decides to exercise his powers – it is worth noting in the past the minister has exercised his powers for jailed criminals – it threatens, to some extend, 56 years of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Canberra,” Dr Markovic-Khaze told Sky News.

She said the treatment of Djokovic has stoked anti-Western furore from certain population groups in the Balkans, which is being directed towards Australia.

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