Djokovic in Australian Open draw as visa saga continues | professional sports

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic remained in limbo even after being included in the Australian Open draw on Thursday, with the tennis star still awaiting a government decision on whether to deport him for not not have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Despite the cloud hanging over Djokovic’s ability to compete, Australian Open organizers have included the top seed in the draw. He is set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, ranked 78th in the world, in the first round next week.

Djokovic, ranked No 1, had his visa canceled on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was rejected, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds which allowed him to stay in the country . Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been considering the matter since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.Expectations of a pending decision were raised when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called an afternoon press conference after a national Cabinet meeting. Speculation intensified when the tournament draw was postponed from 75 minutes to an hour after Morrison’s press conference.

The wait continued after both events ended, with Morrison referring questions about Djokovic to his immigration minister.

“These are personal ministerial powers exercisable by Minister Hawke, and I do not propose to comment further at this time,” Morrison said.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also declined to comment after the draw ceremony for the tournament which begins on Monday.Djokovic, 34, tried to focus his attention on the playing field in the four days since his release from migrant detention. He held a training session at the Rod Laver Arena, his fourth this week, in the middle of the afternoon.

He was at the training ground on Wednesday when a statement posted to his social media accounts acknowledged that his Australian Travel Declaration Form contained incorrect information.

In the statement, Djokovic blamed “human error” on his support team for not saying he had traveled within two weeks of entering Australia.

Giving false information on the form could be grounds for expulsion. It could carry penalties of up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won nearly half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

Djokovic acknowledged the failings when he sought to clarify what he called “ongoing misinformation” about his movements after being infected last month. It also raised questions about his public appearances in Serbia last month, particularly a media interview he attended despite knowing he was HIV-positive.

It was another twist in a saga over whether the athlete should be allowed to stay in Australia despite not being vaccinated.

The first news that Djokovic had been granted an exemption from strict vaccination rules to enter the country caused an outcry and the ensuing dispute has since overshadowed preparations for the Australian Open.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians frowned upon the nine-time reigning Australian Open champion coming to Melbourne to compete in breach of the country’s strict pandemic quarantine rules.

“Most of us thought that because Mr. Djokovic hadn’t been vaxxed twice, he would be asked to leave,” Joyce said. “Well, that was our view, but it wasn’t the court’s view.”

“The vast majority of Australians…didn’t like the idea that another individual, be it a tennis player or…the King of Spain or the Queen of England, could come here and have a different set of rules to what everyone has to deal with,” Joyce added.

No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas told Indian TV channel WION that Djokovic seemed to be “playing by his own rules”.Debate over Djokovic’s presence in Australia is raging amid rising COVID-19 infections across the country.

On Thursday, the state of Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open, relaxed seven-day isolation rules for close contacts of those infected in sectors such as education and transport to reduce the number of employees away from work.

The state recorded 37,169 new cases Thursday in the past 24-hour period, along with 25 deaths and 953 hospitalizations. With cases rising, the Victorian government decided to limit ticket sales for the tennis tournament to reduce the risk of transmission.

Djokovic’s visa status has been debated since his arrival more than a week ago, after posting on social media that he had received an exemption clearance.

The question is whether he has a valid exemption to the strict rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19.

His exemption from competition has been approved by the Victorian government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organiser. This apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa on arrival before a federal judge overturned the decision. Government lawyers have said an infection is only grounds for exemption in cases where the coronavirus causes serious illness – although it is unclear why he received a visa if that is the case.

If Djokovic’s visa is revoked, his lawyers could return to court to seek an injunction that would prevent him from being forced to leave the country.

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