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Novak Djokovic back in training after winning Australia visa appeal - "I want to stay and compete"

Novak Djokovic won an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia on Monday, seemingly allowing him to compete in the Australian Open from January 17 despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19

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Image: Novak Djokovic says he is focused on the Australian Open after returning to training following his successful appeal (Credit: @DjokerNole)

Novak Djokovic is back in training ahead of the Australian Open after winning an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa, but questions remain regarding his whereabouts last month around the time he tested positive for Covid.

Djokovic won an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia on Monday, seemingly allowing him to compete in the Australian Open from January 17 despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No 1 argued that he flew into Australia with an "exemption" on his visa, but when he arrived in the country on Wednesday he was denied entry.

On Monday, Judge Anthony Kelly quashed the visa cancellation, and ordered the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half an hour as he delivered his verdict at 6.16am GMT.

Tweeting on Monday, Djokovic said: "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. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.

"For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong."

ATP: Situation damaging on all fronts

The ATP has condemned the series of events as "damaging on all fronts" and called for greater clarity in future regarding travel regulations and requirements for players.

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While Djokovic has been allowed to enter Australia, his unvaccinated status could see him face issues attempting to enter other nations hosting tournaments in the future.

A statement released on Monday evening said: "The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of COVID-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place. Complications in recent days related to player entry into Australia have however highlighted the need for clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules.

"In travelling to Melbourne, it's clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations. The series of events leading to Monday's court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak's well-being and preparation for the Australian Open. Player medical exemption requests are made independently of ATP, however we have been in constant contact with Tennis Australia to seek clarity throughout this process. We welcome the outcome of Monday's hearing and look forward to an exciting few weeks of tennis ahead.

"More broadly, ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic. This is based on scientific evidence supporting the health benefits provided and to comply with global travel regulations, which we anticipate will become stricter over time. We are encouraged that 97 per cent of the Top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year's Australian Open."

Questions remain over December 16 whereabouts

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When asked about Novak Djokovic's movements around the time he tested positive for Covid on December 16, his brother Djordje abruptly ended a news conference, calling it

There is still confusion surrounding Djokovic's movements around December 16, the date he tested positive for Covid.

Djokovic attended an event on December 16 at the Belgrade headquarters of the Serbian national post office, which was honouring him and his career with the release of a series of stamps.

Djokovic posted pictures from the event - in which he is seen maskless - on his Twitter account on December 17.

It is unclear if Djokovic knew he had Covid when he attended the event.

When asked about his whereabouts around December 16, his brother Djordje Djokovic said in Monday's press conference: "The process was public and all the documents are public and legal."

When asked again by another reporter, he said: "OK, so this press conference is adjourned at the moment, thank you for your attention," before abruptly ending the conference, which prompted applause.

Family: His biggest win

Speaking at a news conference in Belgrade, Djokovic's father Srdjan stressed that the "rule of law has won" in this case: "At the end he won, justice has won and the rule of law has won."

Djordje Djokovic, his brother, revealed the current Australian Open champion has already been on the court.

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Novak Djokovic won an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia ahead of the Australian Open

"Novak is free. A few minutes ago, he trained on a tennis court," he said. "He came to Australia to play tennis, to try and win another Australian Open.

"He has been branded in different ways for many years and he has always supported freedom of choice."

Djokovic's mother, Dijana, told the press conference that her son has "done nothing wrong".

"We're here to celebrate the victory of our son Novak. He always fought for justice. He's done nothing wrong. He went there to win that tournament. This situation has been extremely difficult. There has been a spectrum of emotions: sadness, fear, disappointment.

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Supporters of Novak Djokovic have mobbed a car believed to be carrying the World Number 1, following his successful appeal against his visa refusal

"There were moments when he didn't have his mobile with him. We had no idea what was happening."

Dijana also thanked everyone around the world who has supported her son in Melbourne.

"This is the biggest win in his career, it is bigger than any Grand Slam," she said.

Shortly after the verdict on Monday, a transcript of Djokovic's interview with Border Force last week was released in which Djokovic stated: "I am not vaccinated."

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Novak Djokovic's supporters celebrated outside the courthouse where an Australian judge reinstated the World No 1's visa ahead of the Australian Open

The Serb's visa was one that did not allow for medical exemptions and was cancelled, after which he was moved to hotel quarantine as his team launched an appeal.

The Australian Home Affairs department appealed for the hearing to be delayed until Wednesday, but their request was rejected on Sunday by Judge Anthony Kelly.

On Sunday, the govt filled documents in defence of their decision to deny Djokovic entry. "This is because there is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia. Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa," the government's filing said.

A person believed to be Novak Djokovic (R) is pictured in the back seat of a car leaving the immigration detention centre where he has been staying in Melbourne
Image: A person believed to be Novak Djokovic (R) is pictured in the back seat of a car leaving the immigration detention centre where he has been staying in Melbourne

The Australian Open starts on Monday, January 17, with the draw taking place on Thursday, January 13.

Djokovic's Aussie Open debacle: What's happened?

Djokovic flew to Australia with a 'vaccine exemption' and arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday, but was ultimately denied entry into the country after nine hours at the airport.

The Serb's visa was one that did not allow for medical exemptions and was cancelled, after which he was moved to hotel quarantine as his team launched an appeal.

The Australian Home Affairs department appealed for the hearing to be delayed until Wednesday, but their request was rejected on Sunday by Judge Anthony Kelly.

On Sunday, the govt filled documents in defence of their decision to deny Djokovic entry. "This is because there is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia. Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa," the government's filing said.

Novak Djokovic - Sequence of events

January 4 - Djokovic announces he will be travelling to Australia with an 'exemption permission'.
January 5 - While Djokovic is airborne, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the athlete will be on the "next plane home" if he cannot provide "acceptable proof" that his exemption is legitimate.
Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford highlights that the local government of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held, will not support Djokovic's visa application.
The world No 1 arrives at Melbourne Airport around 11.30pm local time.
January 6 - Around 3.15am, Djokovic's father reports that his son is being held in isolation in Melbourne Airport.
At 5am, Goran Ivanisevic releases an image on social media of himself and another member of Djokovic's team seemingly waiting for the world No 1. The post is captioned, โ€˜Not the most usual trip Down Underโ€™.
Around 8.15am local time, Djokovic's visa is confirmed to have been denied by the Australian Border Force.
Djokovic is moved to quarantine hotel while his legal team appeal visa cancellation.
The appeal against his visa cancellation is adjourned until Monday (Jan 10) morning Australian time.
January 7 - Australia Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says Djokovic is "free to leave any time" and is not being detained.
Djokovic breaks silence in Instagram post on Friday, thanking his fans for their "continuous support".
January 8 - Submission from Djokovic's lawyers on Saturday reveals positive Covid-19 test in December.
January 9 - Home Affairs Minister Andrews has a submission to delay the hearing until Wednesday (Jan 12) rejected by Judge Anthony Kelly.
Submission from Australian government lawyers says Djokovic had not been given an assurance he would be allowed to enter the country with his medical exemption.
January 10 โ€“ Djokovic wins appeal. Judge Anthony Kelly quashes visa cancellation, orders the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention.
Djokovic back in training ahead of Australian Open start on Jan 17
The ATP condemns the series of events as "damaging on all fronts" and calls for greater clarity going forward regarding travel regulations and requirements facing players.

Transcript of Border Force interview released

The court released a transcript of Djokovic's interview with Border Force last week, during which the Serb shared his vaccination status. In response to a question about his status, he said: "I am not vaccinated."

It was also revealed in court documents submitted by Djokovic's lawyers that the player had been infected with Covid-19 in December 2021, confirmed by a PCR Test on December 16. The documents said the infection was the basis of Djokovic's medical exemption.

The documents also noted that Djokovic expressed "shock", "surprise", and "confusion" when he was notified of his visa cancellation "given that (as he understood it) he had done everything he was required to enter Australia".

But Australia's Home Affairs Department filed court documents in which it stated "there is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia" and noted that the Minister has the power to cancel Djokovic's visa a second time if the court rules in his favour.

"As the Court raised with the parties at a previous mention, if this Court were to make orders in the applicant's favour, it would then be for the respondent to administer the Act in accordance with law. That may involve the delegate deciding whether to make another cancellation decision, but there are also other powers in the Act, as the Court would be aware."

Nadal wishes Djokovic 'best of luck'

Following the news that Djokovic's appeal was successful, Rafael Nadal - who warmed up for the Australian Open by clinching the Melbourne Summer Set title - gave his perspective on the situation.

"Whether or not I agree with Djokovic on some things, justice has spoken and has said that he has the right to participate in the Australian Open and I think it is the fairest decision to do so, if it has been resolved that way. I wish him the best of luck," Nadal told Spanish radio Onda Cero on Monday.

"On a personal level, I'd much rather he didn't play," Nadal said, laughing along with the interviewer.

"It's sports, many interests move around it, on a general level, at an economic, advertising level. Everything is much better when the best can be playing," Nadal said, before once again defending vaccination.

"The most important institutions in the world say that the vaccine is the way to stop this pandemic and the disaster that we have been living for the last 20 months."

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