Novak Djokovic’s bid for an unprecedented 21st singles Grand Slam title at the Australian Open could hinge on a single answer he gave on a visa form – had he travelled between Serbia and Spain in the fortnight before his arrival?
The 34-year-old is reported to have ticked the box saying ‘no’ but social media posts and reports appear to show the Monte Carlo resident was in the Serbian capital Belgrade and then Marbella in the 14 days leading up to his departure for Melbourne.
With the Australian government bruised after losing to Djokovic in the courts on Monday over revoking his entry visa, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has said he could yet deport the men’s world number one.
He would have reason to do so if Djokovic is found to have lied on his entry form.
The travel document clearly spells out that “giving false or misleading information is a serious offence” and can result in being barred from Australia for three years.
Djokovic was pictured in Belgrade on December 25, with Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic. The photograph appeared on Djordjic’s Instagram page.
There then appears to be incontrovertible evidence he travelled to Spain for the New Year period.
On January 2, Djokovic was pictured by the Diario Sur local newspaper playing at the Puente Romano club in Sierra Blanca, Marbella, where he was staying in a villa.
On December 31, the SotoTennis academy also tweeted a video of Djokovic training in Marbella.
“We can confirm that Novak Djokovic is ready for the Australian Open if possible,” the academy tweeted—at the time Djokovic had yet to commit to competing in Australia.
Djokovic then arrived in Melbourne on January 5, having been given an Covid-19 exemption by organisers, only to have his visa was cancelled, beginning the legal fight that ended when a judge overturned that decision on Monday.
Even before that potentially crucial two-week window, the unvaccinated Djokovic was seen in Belgrade after he claims he tested positive for Covid-19 — the basis for the exemption—on December 16.
His public appearances in Belgrade after the positive result led to a testy exchange at a press conference the Djokovic family gave on Monday.
Asked by a journalist, his brother Djordje confirmed Novak had tested positive on December 16.
The next day he was at the launch of a Serbian stamp bearing his image and also appearing unmasked beside youngsters in Belgrade when apparently infected.
When the same reporter followed up by asking “Was he out in public on December 17 while infected?” Djordje pulled the curtain down, saying: “The press conference is adjourned.”
Since leaving the Melbourne immigration detention facility on Monday, Djokovic has carried on as if everything is normal in practising ahead of the tournament that begins next Monday.
But it remains to be seen whether these videos result in his next ace being in Australia or farther afield.