Tiley breaks silence before Novak hearing

Murray Wenzel |

Craig Tiley has addressed Novak Djokovic’s plight publicly for the first time on the eve of the world No.1’s Federal Court hearing to remain in the country and compete for a history-making 21st major title.

The Tennis Australia (TA) boss and Australian Open tournament director refused to shift the blame for the fiasco that’s left the Serbian star in immigration detention in Melbourne since Thursday morning after having his visa cancelled by the federal government.

Tiley on Sunday told the Nine Network he “would like to see him play the Australian Open”, insisting TA hadn’t deceived players seeking medical exemptions.

He said they’d remained in weekly contact with all levels of government “to ensure we were doing the right thing and we were on the right process with these exemptions”.

“There was plenty of contradictory information, plenty of conflicting information and we were constantly seeking clarity from day one to ensure that one, we did the right thing and two, we were able to bring the players into the country,” Tiley said.

“All the information we had at the time, the knowledge we had at the time, was supplied to players.

“We’re not going to lay the blame on anyone. There’s much contradictory information … it’s because of the changing environment.”

Djokovic’s court fight to remain in the country and defend his Australian Open title and reign in Melbourne for a 10th time is set to go ahead on Monday after a late bid by federal government lawyers to delay the case until Wednesday.

The 34-year-old’s lawyers will argue that he met the criteria for a temporary exemption under Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines and that he was denied procedural fairness during the decision to revoke his visa.

Djokovic, who is likely to present to the hearing virtually, could be cross-examined by both the judge and the government’s barrister.

How he responds will be crucial after documents were released by the Federal Court on Saturday, showing the Serb contracted COVID-19 on December 16 and was free of symptoms before he arrived in Australia.

Eyebrows were raised when pictures then surfaced of Djokovic attending public events, indoors, unmasked and with children in the days that followed his positive test confirmation.

A leaked TA document to players also indicated the deadline for medical exemption applications was December 10, meaning Djokovic’s ensuing positive test appeared to be his only avenue to a last-minute green light.

A vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, Djokovic had previously declined to reveal his vaccination status or reason for seeking a medical exemption for sidestepping Australia’s vaccine rules.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt, asked about the Djokovic furore at a media conference on Sunday, declined to comment since it was before the court, but noted that several other people involved in the tournament had their visas revoked.

Czech player Renata Voracova, who was detained in the same detention hotel as Djokovic and had her visa revoked after issues with her vaccine exemption, left the country without challenging her status, the Czech Foreign Ministry said.