SYDNEY — Novak Djokovic apologized on Wednesday for making a mistake on an Australian travel document as the country’s immigration minister considers whether to cancel the tennis star’s visa for a second time, just days before the start of the Australian Open.
Djokovic, who was released from hotel detention on Monday following a five-day standoff with Australian officials over his entry into the country, apologized on Instagram for an error on a travel declaration form. According to the world’s best-ranked male player, Djokovic claimed that his agent had incorrectly indicated Djokovic hadn’t traveled for two weeks prior to arriving in Australia.
“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” he wrote. “We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur.”
The admission adds to lingering uncertainty over Djokovic’s ability to remain in Australia, which has enforced tight protocols around coronavirus vaccination. The unvaccinated tennis star is preparing to defend his Australian Open title. However, Djokovic could still be detained and deported at any time.
The saga is a slippery one for the Australian government. Prime Minister Scott Morrison initially embraced the decision to expel Djokovic, appearing to welcome the chance to shift the national discussion away from soaring coronavirus cases to border security ahead of a federal election in a few months. The tennis player’s victory in court was an embarrassment. And a second attempt to deport Djokovic could not only deepen the dispute with Serbia but also undermine one of Australia’s flagship sporting events.
Djokovic’s travel declaration, which was among documents posted publicly on Monday as part of his court hearing, had appeared to conflict with images and eyewitness descriptions of him in Serbia and then Spain shortly before he flew to Australia.
Djokovic also sought to clear up “misinformation” about his positive coronavirus test in Serbia, which formed the basis for his request for an exemption to Australia’s requirement that foreign visitors be vaccinated against the virus.
The Serb said he “felt obliged” to go ahead with a Dec. 18 newspaper interview and photo shoot despite learning that he had tested positive for the virus.
“On reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said.
Djokovic had a mask on during the interview but took it off and screamed for the photo shoot, according to the journalist from L’Equipe, who said he has since tested negative.
The apology came after Der Spiegel published an investigation into Djokovic’s positive test, which was made public as part of the tennis player’s visa cancellation appeal. According to the German newspaper, Djokovic might have “manipulated” his test results. Other media raised concerns about Djokovic’s photos at indoor public events with no mask after taking his test.
Djokovic obliquely addressed the reports in his Instagram post, saying that he needed to rebut misinformation “in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia.”
The tennis player wrote that he had attended a basketball game in Belgrade on Dec. 14 at which a number of people contracted the virus. Djokovic said he did not have any symptoms but took a rapid antigen test and a PCR test “out of an abundance of caution.”
The rapid test result was negative, as was another one he took the following day before attending an event with children. He said that the positive result from his PCR test came after the event.
He went ahead with the interview and photo shoot the next day because “I didn’t want to let the journalist down,” he said.
The apology came as Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, said he is still considering whether to use his personal power to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
“Mr. “Naturally, this will affect the time frame for a decision.” “Naturally, this will affect the time frame for a decision.”
Djokovic has been practicing at the Melbourne Park sports complex ahead of the start of the Australian Open on Monday. He is seeking to win a record-breaking 21st men’s singles Grand Slam title.
Though Djokovic has kept a low profile since his release, refraining from interviews and practicing behind closed doors, his parents continue to lambaste the Australian government over its handling of his case.
His father, Srdjan, called Morrison a “dictator” this week and asked Queen Elizabeth II — nominally Australia’s sovereign — to intervene. Djokovic’s mother Dijana laughed at the tournament’s requirement for vaccinations.
“If he’s healthy, if his PCR is negative, why he cannot play?” she told Australia’s Channel 7 News. “Are they afraid if he coughs on the court he’s going to get ill, like, 10,000 people? This is absurd. It’s silly.”
She also urged Australia to let him compete.
“I realize that this is not over yet and we are all praying that he will stay,” she said. He isn’t a politician or a criminal. You can’t judge him. He is a great tennis player. Just let him play.”