Tennis

DJOKOVIC IN AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAW AS VISA SAGA CONTINUES

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

Despite the cloud hanging over Djokovic’s ability to compete, Australian Open organizers included the top seed in the draw. He is slated to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, who is ranked world No. 78., in the opening round next week.

No. 1-ranked Djokovic 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 that allowed him to stay in the country.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been considering the question since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.

Expectations of a pending decision were raised when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called an afternoon news conference after a national Cabinet meeting. Speculation heightened when the tournament draw was postponed by 75 minutes to a time after Morrison’s news conference.

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

“These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time,” Morrison said.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also declined comment after the draw ceremony for the tournament that starts Monday.

The 34-year-old Djokovic has been trying to focus his attention on the playing court in the four days since he was released from immigration detention. He held a practice session at Rod Laver Arena, his fourth this week, in the mid-afternoon.

He was on the practice court Wednesday when a statement posted on his social media accounts acknowledged that his Australian travel declaration form contained incorrect information.

In the statement, Djokovic blamed “human error” by his support team for failing to declare that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia.

Giving false information on the form could be grounds for deportation. That could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a daunting prospect for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles here.

Djokovic acknowledged the lapses when he sought to clarify what he called “continuing misinformation” about his movements after he became 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 positive.

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