By JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Lawyers for Novak Djokovic have filed court documents in his challenge against Australia’s deportation that showed the tennis star had contracted COVID-19 last month, the Australian reported on Saturday Broadcasting Corp.

On Wednesday evening, No.1-ranked Djokovic was refused entry at Melbourne Airport after border officials revoked his visa for failing to meet his entry requirement that all non- nationals must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Djokovic received a medical exemption backed by the Victoria state government and the organizers of the Australian Open based on information he provided to two independent medical panels.

But it has since emerged that the medical exemption, authorized for people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the previous six months, has been ruled invalid by border authorities.

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Djokovic is in an immigrant detention hotel in Melbourne, preparing for his challenge in Federal Circuit Court on Monday.

The ABC reported that in documents filed on Saturday, lawyers for Djokovic said Tennis Australia granted the 34-year-old Serbian player a “medical exemption from COVID vaccination” on January 1 on the grounds that he had recently recovered from the coronavirus.

The exemption certification stated that Djokovic’s first positive test date was December 16, 2021 and that he had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours.

The court brief said Djokovic had received a document from the Australian Home Office stating that his travel declaration had been assessed and his responses indicated that he qualified for an unquarantined arrival in Australia.

If he does not revert his visa cancellation and is deported for not having enough evidence to justify a medical exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rules, Djokovic risks missing more than one Open d ‘ Australia and could be banned for up to three years.

In an emailed response to The Associated Press on what could happen if Djokovic loses his legal fight, the Australian Border Force said: “A person whose visa has been canceled may be subject to a period of three-year exclusion which prevents the granting of a new temporary visa.

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

The organizers of the Australian Open have not commented publicly except to tell Australian newspapers that no player has been misled about the vaccination requirements.

Tournament director Craig Tiley has continued to work with Djokovic, hoping to bring the defending champion into the tournament which starts a week from Monday.

Tiley’s video message to Australian Open staff about the tournament’s “difficult time in the public arena” appeared in News Corp newspapers on Saturday.

“There was a circumstance that concerned a few players, Novak in particular. . . in a very difficult situation, “Tiley said in the video.” We are an event where the players come first. We are working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, who are in this situation.

Djokovic, 34, who shares the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, is one of two players held in a Melbourne hotel that also houses refugees and asylum seekers. asylum. A third person, believed to be a civil servant, left the country voluntarily after investigations by border forces.

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

Djokovic contacted the world for the first time in three days later Friday evening, posted on social media to mark the Orthodox Christmas and thank his supporters. There were large-scale rallies in Belgrade and small groups of supporters gathered in front of his detention hotel on a daily basis.

“Thank you to people around the world for your continued support,” Djokovic said on Instagram. “I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”

After months of speculation that he would miss the tournament due to his stance on vaccination, Djokovic announced via social media on Tuesday that he had received a medical exemption from the Victoria state government, backed by tennis organizers.

But he was not allowed into Australia on Wednesday evening when federal border officials at Melbourne Airport rejected his exemption from Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Tiley told staff in the video that he couldn’t speak publicly due to the ongoing legal case, but has stood up for his organization.

“There are a lot of finger marks and a lot of blame,” he said in the video, “but I can assure you that our team did an amazing job and did everything they could say they could. the instructions that they were provided.

So who is at fault? The federal government blamed Djokovic, with the prime minister saying rules are rules and inbound passengers are responsible for complying with border regulations.

Tennis Australia and the government of the state of Victoria, where the Australian Open is played, blame the confusion over precise definitions.

Tennis Australia, which runs the tournament and arranges logistics for more than 2,000 incoming players, staff and officials, has reportedly misinterpreted players as to acceptable grounds for a bye. This included the interpretation that having had a coronavirus infection in the previous six months would qualify.

This seems to be the key to the dispute. The federal government said the claims on these grounds were invalid.

The state government of Victoria has required all players, staff, fans and officials to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate in the tournament.

The state, which approved the medical exemptions for Djokovic, said the exemptions were for access to Melbourne Park, not the border.

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