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Djokovic is back in swing in Australia, visa queries linger

MELBOURNE (AP) -- Novak Djokovic practiced on Tuesday. This was a day after he was released from immigration detention. He focused on defending his Australian Open title while still facing the possibility of being deported because he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Djokovic is back in swing in Australia, visa queries linger

After winning a legal battle, the top-ranked tennis player hit the Melbourne Park show courts, where the tournament was held. He was allowed to remain in the country within hours.

The issue is whether he can enter Australia without having to be vaccinated. He recently came back from COVID-19. Monday's ruling by a judge allowed him to stay. However, the immigration minister may still decide to send him home.

On Tuesday, new questions were raised about an immigration form. He claimed that he hadn't traveled for 14 days prior to his flight to Australia. In the two-week period, the Monte Carlo-based Olympic athlete was also seen in Spain as well as Serbia.

There has been much controversy in Australia and elsewhere over Djokovic's compliance with Australia's rules. Many complained that Djokovic was being treated differently from Australia during the pandemic.

Djokovic was accused of being a convenient scapegoat in an Australian government that is under fire for its handling of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the nine-time Australian Open champion held a practice at Rod Laver Arena. Shortly thereafter, tournament organizers named him the top-seeded man in the men's doubles draw.

He was seen taking feedback from his coach and hitting shots from behind the baseline. He also stretched beside the court with a trainer. The athlete was held in an immigration hotel for four nights and is now back on the court less than a week before the Grand Slam tournament begins.

"Despite everything that has happened, it is my desire to remain and compete @AustralianOpen. Djokovic tweeted early Tuesday morning, "I remain focused on that." "I flew to this event to play in front of our amazing fans.

However, he is still at risk of being deported before the first match.

Tennis Australia and Victoria gave Djokovic an exemption from their vaccination rules for competition because he had contracted COVID-19. This apparently enabled him to obtain a visa to travel.

Federal border officials stopped him at his arrival and cancelled his visa. The government's lawyers claimed that an infection within the past six months is not grounds for an exemption for cases where the coronavirus has caused severe illness.

If that is the case, it's not obvious why Djokovic was granted a visa.

Monday's federal judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on procedural grounds. He said that he wasn't allowed enough time to talk to his lawyers in order to challenge the decision. However, Alex Hawke, Immigration Minister, is still contemplating using his authority to deport Djokovic (34-year-old Serbian) under separate legislation.

Hawke's office released a statement stating that the matter was still being considered.

Scott Morrison, the conservative Australian prime minister, has blamed Tennis Australia for the failure. Ministers have accused Tennis Australia of misinforming players about vaccine requirements. However, newspapers reported that Djokovic's visa paperwork had been checked by the Department of Home Affairs before he and his teammates flew.

Tuesday's release of documents by the Federal Circuit Court showed that Djokovic claimed to have not traveled for 14 days prior to his flight to Australia.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne Wednesday night just before midnight. He answered "no" when asked about his previous travels on the Australian Travel Declaration form.

He was captured playing tennis on the streets of Belgrade, Serbia's capital, Dec. 25, as well as training in Spain Dec. 31, both within the same 14-day period. He was originally from Marbella in Spain and traveled to Australia.

Djokovic claimed that Tennis Australia had completed the declaration on his behalf, but the officer who cancelled his visa said that it was based only on information Djokovic provided.

It wasn't clear whether the document was brought up at Monday's hearing.

This form states that providing false or misleading information can be a serious offense and could lead to deportation.

This drama has divided opinions and attracted strong support for the Grand Slam 20 winner from Serbia.

Morrison discussed the issue on Tuesday with Ana Brnabic, Serbia's Prime Minister. They agreed to continue in contact.

Morrison's office released a statement saying that the PM had explained Australia's non-discriminatory policy on border security and its role in protecting Australia from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brnabic requested Morrison to ensure Djokovic was treated dignity, Radio Television of Serbia reported.

RTS reported that the prime minister stressed the importance of physical and training preparations for the forthcoming competition.

This drama has placed Morrison's government in a difficult spot before the May elections. His government was widely praised because it contained the COVID-19 death rate at the outbreak of the pandemic. However, his government has been criticised for not following certain rules as omicron cases are rapidly increasing.

Kristina Keneally (opposition home affairs spokesperson) blamed the visa confusion upon a lack planning by Morrison's Government and claimed the saga made Australia look "a bit of an idiot" on the international stage.

Keneally stated that Djokovic could be deported. However, if Djokovic is allowed to remain, it will cause "incredible damage to Australia" and "a real insult to those Australians who have done the hard work of vaccination and lockdowns."

Andy Murray lost four Australian Open finals against Djokovic. However, he said that the court win was a positive for his fellow major winner, but details remain to be clarified.

Murray stated, "I'm certain we'll hear about him in the coming days." "I hope we can move past it now. He looks set to be able play in the Australian Open.

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