Serbian PM calls on Australian government to make decision ‘soon’ on Djokovic case

Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Brnabić says her government is ready to guarantee men's tennis world number one Novak Djokovic will respect local regulations if he is allowed to stay in Melbourne and compete in the Australian Open.

Key points:

  • Serbia's PM says she is unsure if Djokovic knew he was COVID positive while attending an event in Belgrade
  • She wants a decision soon on whether the tennis star will be allowed to stay in Australia
  • Ms Brnabić spoke to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about Djokovic's case

Her comments came after it was alleged Djokovic attended a Belgrade Tennis Association event while not wearing a mask on December 17 — the day after he tested positive to COVID-19 for a second time.

Ms Brnabić said Djokovic would have "clearly violated the rules" in place in Serbia if the tennis star had known his test result before he participated in the event, but she added that more information about the incident was needed.

"I don't know when he received the test result, when he read it," Ms Brnabić said.

When asked what would happen if Djokovic was found to have breached quarantine rules, she said the Serbian government would "deal with it".

"We will have an insight into that information because I think that information is part of the investigation that is currently led by the immigration ministry of Australia," she said.

"In the end, they made public a part of Novak's medical documentation, which I am not even sure was fair on their part to make it public, because it is not fair to make anyone's medical documentation public, unless they had Novak's explicit consent for that."

'Neither optimistic nor pessimistic' Ms Brnabić says uncertainty around whether Djokovic can play is not good for the Australian Open.(Reuters: Zorana Jevtic)

Non-residents who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 cannot enter Australia unless they have been given an exemption. Djokovic, who is not vaccinated, based his exemption on him having contracted the virus last month.

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Australian Border Force cancelled his visa before Djokovic had that decision overturned in the Federal Circuit Court.

However the tennis star's fate remains in the balance as Immigration Minister Alex Hawke continues to consider whether to use his ministerial powers to cancel the Serbian star's visa.

If that happens, it could mean Djokovic is banned from entering Australia for three years, although ban periods are done on a case-by-case basis.

That investigation could involve whether or not Djokovic lied on his entry papers about his travel prior to coming to Australia.

Ms Brnabić, who recently spoke with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said she was "neither optimistic nor pessimistic" about whether Djokovic would be permitted to stay in Australia, where he hopes to win a record 21st grand slam title.

"I hope that final decision will be announced soon," she said.

"Uncertainty is not good for any of the stakeholders, neither Djokovic nor the Australian Open."

Key dates in the Djokovic saga

  • On November 18, Djokovic is granted a temporary activity (subclass 408) visa. Temporary activity visas enable people to work in Australia on a short-term basis, and subclass 408 covers sporting activities.
  • On November 29, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt writes to Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley, saying players wishing to enter Australia quarantine-free must be fully vaccinated and cannot count a previous infection as a reason for exemption.
  • On December 16, Djokovic tests positive for COVID-19.
  • On December 30, Djokovic receives a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia stating he has been granted a "medical exemption from COVID vaccination" on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID-19.
  • On January 1, Djokovic receives an automated online confirmation via the Australian Travel Declaration website/app that he met the requirements for a "quarantine-free arrival into Australia where permitted by the jurisdiction of your arrival".
  • Just before midnight on January 5, Djokovic arrives in Melbourne on a flight from Dubai and is detained at the airport.
  • In the early hours of January 6, Djokovic is interviewed by Border Force officials before his visa is cancelled and he is transferred to a Melbourne immigration detention hotel.
  • Later that day, his lawyers file a challenge against the cancellation of his visa. An injunction is granted to allow Djokovic to remain in the country until January 10, the same day a hearing is scheduled in the Federal Circuit Court.
  • On January 10, the court finds Djokovic's visa was unreasonably cancelled and orders his release from immigration detention. After his release, the tennis star publicly states his intention to stay in the country and compete at the Australian Open



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