Andy Murray has welcomed Novak Djokovic’s release from immigration detention but he anticipates that the men’s world No 1 will have a number of questions to answer in the coming days if he remains in Australia.
Djokovic spent his first full day of freedom focusing on tennis matters as he took to Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena behind closed doors for much-needed practice after the best part of five days spent in a hotel room fighting the cancellation of his visa.
Off court however, his status remained in limbo as Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, continued to deliberate over whether to exercise his reserved powers and attempt, for a second time, to deport the Serbian, while fresh questions arose over the accuracy of Djokovic’s travel documents.
There was no response from the Djokovic camp, either, following increasing attention on the positive PCR Test from 16 December on which he relied to obtain a medical exemption to travel and his apparent maskless appearances in public in social media posts shortly after that date.
As players began to speak about Djokovic’s detainment, Murray said that it was positive to see Djokovic win his hearing but he believes there are still issues to be resolved.
“It’s positive that he’s not in detention any more,” said Murray. “Obviously he won in court, so that’s a positive thing for him. Hopefully [he] will be able to concentrate on the tennis now. You know, I think there are still a few questions that need to be answered around, you know, the isolation and stuff, which I’m sure we’ll hear from him in the next few days.”
Meanwhile, Marton Fucsovics of Hungary became one of the first players to publicly disagree with Djokovic’s presence in Australia. The 29-year-old Hungarian described Djokovic as the greatest player in the sport and underlined the respect he has for the No 1.
“However, we must not go beyond what is happening in the world now,” he said, speaking with M1, a Hungarian TV channel. “People’s health is paramount, and there are rules that were outlined months ago, namely that everyone should vaccinate themselves, and Djokovic didn’t. From this point of view, I don’t think he would have the right to be here.”
On Monday, Djokovic and his team of lawyers won their court hearing and successfully restored the 34-year-old’s visa when Judge Anthony Kelly found that the Australian Border Force had not given Djokovic enough time to speak with his lawyers and Tennis Australia before cancelling his visa.
Thus allowed out of detention and to move around freely, Djokovic went straight from his lawyers’ offices to train at Melbourne Park and he returned for a second session in the middle of Tuesday afternoon, where he practised with Australian junior James McCabe on Rod Laver Arena. Amid ample curiosity about his physical condition after several days spent detained in a hotel room, Djokovic opted for his session to be held behind closed doors and the live feed of Rod Laver Arena in the press rooms was temporarily taken down.
Top players sometimes opt to compete without an audience when they would rather the public or their rivals cannot see them. However, the tournament went through extraordinary measures to keep all eyes out with nearly every door in the arena locked shut. Aside from Tennis Australia’s in-house videographers, the only footage of Djokovic came through a drone directed by 9News, although Tennis Australia photographers were allowed to pool images.
As Djokovic continues his preparation, he does so with clouds seeming to multiply above his head. The Australia Border Force is investigating suggestions that Djokovic disclosed incorrect information on his Australia Travel Declaration.
In the form, released after his court hearing on Monday, Djokovic – who indicated among different court documents that his agent and Tennis Australia had completed the form at different times – declared that he had not travelled to any other country in the 14 days before he began his journey to Australia from Spain on 4 January.
However, on Tuesday photos on social media appeared to indicate that he had recently travelled from Serbia as he had posed alongside the Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic in Belgrade on Christmas Day. Djokovic has not commented and it is not clear when the image was taken.
Should Djokovic remain in Australia and compete in the tournament, Tennis Australia – who on Tuesday formally confirmed he would be the No 1 men’s seed – will likely be moved to increase security after the rowdy scenes on Monday as police used pepper spray on members of the public as they stormed a car they thought to be carrying Djokovic away from his lawyers’ offices.
In the wake of Djokovic’s successful hearing, the ATP addressed his detainment for the first time in a lengthy statement, acknowledging the saga has been detrimental to all concerned. The men’s tennis governing body noted its respect for the Australian public’s sentiments and the strict border laws while expressing support for Djokovic.
“It’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations,” said the ATP. “The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open.”