World number one Novak Djokovic’s serial numbers have been proven to be valid according to Serbian authorities
Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s submitted Covid tests offered as part of his failed bid to play at the Australian Open are valid, Serbian officials declared today.
Djokovic stole the pre-tournament headlines as the Serb was sensationally deported from Australia after confusion over his visa and exemption status took hold.
It meant the world number one was unable to feature at the tournament and could not defend his crown as he sough a record 10th title Down Under.
Prosecutors in Serbia make the comments after doubts were raised concerning the sequence numbers, which were alarmingly out of sequence. This was deemed incredibly unusual following analysis on a number of other certificates.
One positive Covid test submitted by Djokovic was dated December 16 and had the serial number 7371999. The second test – negative on December 22 – had the serial number 7320919, which is lower than the initial test.
Analysis by the BBC of dozens of Serbian Covid tests revealed that they followed a strict chronological sequence – so the earlier the test was taken, the lower the serial number on the test certificate.
The only outlier to the pattern was Djokovic’s positive test, but re-plotting the date of Djokovic’s positive test in-line with the serial number suggests the test was actually taken somewhere between December 25 and 28.
Experts contacted by the BBC said it is always possible that some kind of glitch was responsible for the outlying result, though it appears unlikely.
On Wednesday, the Belgrade Public Prosecutor’s office insisted the investigators had checked with the Health Ministry which confirmed both of Djokovic’s tests were valid. They provided no explanation as to why the serial numbers are out of sync.
Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, submitted the tests in a bid to circumvent Australia’s strict border rules, which state all arrivals must be vaccinated against Covid unless medically exempt.
The certificates showed Djokovic had tested positive for Covid on December 16 and recovered on December 22 to secure the world number one a medical exemption.
However, border guards stopped him after he arrived on January 5, retracted his visa and detained him in a migrant detention hotel.
The Serb spent days locked up alongside refugees while appealing the decision. Djokovic was allowed out before he was re-arrested and deported following personal intervention by immigration minister Alex Hawke.
Hawke ultimately rejected the visa on the grounds that prior Covid infection was not a sufficient reason from medical intervention.
On Thursday, Djokovic met Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, with the official praising the tennis icon’s ‘great fight’ with Australian authorities.
“Thank you for the great fight you fought in Australia,” Vucic told the tennis star, saying he told the 34-year-old to return to Serbia while the fiasco was going on: “And then I saw how … he was ready to fight not only for himself, but for his country.”
Djokovic, speaking about the events in Australia for the first time, told Vucic he will address the public within seven to 10 days.
“You have stood behind me and placed yourself in a compromised political position in international relations, and I am … extremely grateful. I will remember that,” Djokovic said.