Novak Djokovic’s lawyers say recent Covid infection gave him vaccine exemption

Novak Djokovic's legal team have a "compelling case" that the "law is defective", an Australian immigration lawyer told ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie

Novak Djokovic was given a vaccine exemption to enter Australia because he contracted Covid-19 last month, his lawyers have claimed.

The world’s top-ranked male tennis player has been detained at an immigration facility in Melbourne since Thursday morning after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured.

According to court documents published on Saturday, the Serbian recorded a positive test on December 16 and has “not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours.”

His legal team says he was provided with a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording he had a medical exemption from Covid vaccination.

It is claimed the exemption certificate was “provided by an Independent Expert Medical Review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia.”

It adds “the decision of that panel had been reviewed and endorsed by an independent Medical Exemptions Review Panel of the Victorian State Government.”

Djokovic’s lawyers added that he was granted an “Australian Travel Declaration” because he was told by the authorities that [he met] the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia.”

He has appealed against the decision and must wait for a hearing on Monday to discover his fate.

Protests have been held outside the hotel where Djokovic is staying. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, it has emerged Djokovic risks missing more than one Australian Open if he fails to have his visa cancellation overturned and gets deported.

He could be barred for up to three years , with the Australian Border Force saying: “A person whose visa has been cancelled may be subject to a three-year exclusion period that prevents the grant of a further temporary visa.

“The exclusion period will be considered as part of any new visa application and can be waived in certain circumstances, noting each case is assessed on its own merits.”

Australian Open organisers have not commented publicly, except to tell Australian newspapers that no players have been misled over the vaccination requirements.

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Tournament director Craig Tiley has continued working with Djokovic, hoping to get the defending champion into the tournament that starts in a week from Monday.

Tiley’s video message to Australian Open staff about the tournament's “difficult time in the public arena” was published in newspapers on Saturday.

“There’s been a circumstance that relates to a couple of players, Novak particularly... in a situation that is very difficult," Tiley said in the video.

"We’re a player-first event. We’re working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, that are in this situation.”

The 34-year-old Djokovic, who shares the men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, is one of two players put into detention in a hotel in Melbourne that also houses refugees and asylum seekers. A third person, reported to be an official, left the country voluntarily after border force investigations.

The other player was identified on Friday by the Czech Republic embassy in Canberra as 38-year-old doubles player Renata Voráčová.