Travel docs questioned in Djokovic saga

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player

Tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic was training on a Melbourne tennis court within hours of his visa being reinstated but he still faces being kicked out of Australia.

Despite a win in court on Monday, the 34-year-old Serbian faces the prospect of deportation less than a week before the first grand slam of the new year.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has the power to cancel Djokovic's visa.

A decision is not expected on Tuesday though, after Mr Hawke's office issued a statement shortly before 4pm saying the matter was still being determined.

"In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter," a representative said.

Fresh questions have been raised over the tennis star's application to enter the country after documents released by Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reveal Djokovic told authorities he had not travelled in the 14 days before his flight to Australia.

Monte Carlo-based Djokovic touched down in Melbourne just before midnight on Wednesday, answering "no" to the question about previous travel on his Australian Travel Declaration form.

But the reigning Australian Open champ was filmed playing tennis in the streets of the Serbian capital Belgrade on Christmas Day and training in Spain on December 31 - both within the 14-day window.

The declaration notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offence, while civil penalties are also available.

Djokovic told immigration officers Tennis Australia completed the declaration on his behalf, but it was noted by the officer who cancelled his visa that the sporting body would have facilitated that "based on information the visa holder provided".

The tennis star has also faced scrutiny after court documents revealed he tested positive to COVID-19 on December 16, days before he was photographed unmasked at public events including a trophy presentation for junior players.

Djokovic, who admitted to immigration authorities he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, returned a negative PCR test on December 22.

Despite the controversy, Djokovic says he is focused on the upcoming tournament.

The 20-time grand slam winner will be hoping to overtake fellow 20-timers Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Melbourne tournament when it begins on Monday.

"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," Djokovic tweeted on Tuesday, just after midnight.

"I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans."

At a press conference in Serbia, Djokovic's family spoke about the injustice of his detention, with his mother Dijana claiming he was "subjected to torture".

"This is his biggest win in his career. It's bigger than any of the grand slams he has won," she said.

His father Srdjan said the court's decision was a win for free speech and the free world.

The initial decision to cancel his visa was quashed by Judge Anthony Kelly on Monday, after government lawyers conceded the decision made during an early morning immigration interview was unreasonable in the circumstances.

His lawyer Nick Wood SC said Djokovic declared before boarding his flight to Australia that he had a medical contraindication for vaccination and provided evidence in the form of an exemption from Tennis Australia.

Judge Kelly asked: "What more could this man have done?"

The judge also made an order for Djokovic to leave detention to a confidential location specified by his lawyers for the duration of Monday's hearing.

He was taken to Hall and Wilcox's CBD offices, which has a vaccination policy.

"This attendance was in accordance with our COVID-19 vaccination policy, under a medical exemption approved by our COVID officer and managing partner," the firm said in a statement on Tuesday.

The lawyers said they were "proud" of Monday's result "and delighted for our client".

"We understand that there is a lot of interest in the case. We will comment further in due course," they said.

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