Unable to escape the spotlight, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic released a statement on Wednesday afternoon addressing “continuing misinformation” about his activities in December.
The 34-year-old released the statement on his Instagram channel where he tried to explain the details surrounding his positive COVID-19 test result and the activities that he took part in around it.
The Serbian also sought to clarify that the issue on his travel declaration was a “human error” and nothing more.
Despite his ordeal, Djokovic - or his scribe - employed a very respectful tone in the statement and finished by complementing “one of the best crowds in the world”.
Djokovic was essentially forced to explain himself after it became apparent that he attended multiple events maskless in the days following his positive COVID-19 result on the 16th of December.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was tested and diagnosed on the 16th of December according to a sworn affidavit but appeared at a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children the next day. Following this, Djokovic conducted an interview and photoshoot with French publication L’Equipe on the 18th of December.
Djokovic’s actions have drawn the ire of the public who do not think he has taken the pandemic seriously. It isn’t his first offence either, with the ill-fated Adria Tour leaving a sour taste in the mouth.
According to the statement, Djokovic did not find out about his positive result until after he attended the tennis award ceremony in Belgrade. Even if this is the case, the Serbian still attended the L’Equipe interview fully aware that he was COVID positive - something he explains as an “error of judgement”.
Speaking on the matter, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić assured that Djokovic would have “violated the rules” that Serbia has in place if he knowingly attended the aforementioned events while being positive for COVID-19.
Prime Minister Brnabić said her government would handle the situation in accordance with Serbian law if Djokovic is found to have breached the rules.
Djokovic’s reasoning for knowingly attending the L’Equipe interview and photoshoot was that he felt a “sense of obligation” to not “let the journalist down”.
The nine-time Australian Open champion stressed that he followed social distancing measures and even wore a mask except for when his picture was being taken.
You can read the full statement below.
"I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result.
This is misinformation which needs to be corrected, particularly in the interest of alleviating broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia, and to address matters which are very hurtful and concerning to my family.
I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations.
I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on 14 December after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive wth COVID-19. Despite having no COVID symptoms, I took a rapid antigen test on 16 December which was negative, and out of an abundance of caution, also took an official and approved PCR test on the same day.
The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative.
I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.
The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L’Equipe interview.
I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.
While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.
On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf - as I told immigration officials on my arrival - and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.
While I felt it was important to address and clarify misinformation I will not be making any further comment out of utmost respect for the Australian Government and their authorities and the current process.
It is always an honour and a privilege to play in the Australian Open. The Australian Open is much-loved by players, fans and the community, not just in Victoria and in Australia, but around the globe, and I just want to have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and perform before one of the best crowds in the world".