Novak Djokovic had a request from inside hotel detention rejected as a plea from the boss of Tennis Australia comes under scrutiny.
Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley reportedly said the Australian Open’s “viability” depended on unvaccinated players being granted exemptions to compete if they had contracted Covid-19 in the past six months as fresh details about Novak Djokovic’s detention were revealed.
Djokovic is being kept in an infamous Melbourne hotel as he awaits Monday’s legal challenge to the decision to cancel his visa.
The Age reports the tennis star asked for his personal chef to be able to cook meals for him at the Park Hotel, but his request was rejected. The hotel’s usual chef is instead cooking meals that cater to the tennis player’s dietary requirements.
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Meanwhile, The Age also reports Tiley sent a letter to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) in November seeking answers as to whether players who had been infected with the virus in the past six months would be exempt from needing to be vaccinated.
“The treatment of players who fall within one of these categories goes to the heart of the viability of the Australian Open,” Tiley allegedly wrote in the letter to ATAGI.
According to the report Tiley did not mention Djokovic in the letter, though at the time the Serbian — who has spoken publicly against mandatory vaccinations — was seeking an exemption to come Down Under and chase his 10th Australian Open crown.
In a letter sent by Department of Health First Assistant Secretary Lisa Schofield to Tiley later in November, it was made clear that “people who have previously had Covid-19 and not received a vaccine dose are not considered fully vaccinated” and they would “not be approved for quarantine-free entry, regardless of whether they have received foreign vaccination exemptions”.
Despite this, Djokovic still jumped on a plane to Australia during the week, only to be refused entry and have his visa cancelled. The Australian Border Force and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the tennis star provided insufficient evidence to justify his medical exemption.
News of Tiley’s plea to ATAGI comes as Tennis Australia faces intense scrutiny after it was revealed the governing body did not tell players they would not be eligible for vaccination exemptions even if they had caught Covid within the past six months as confusion reigned about what criteria needed to be met.
The Herald Sun exclusively reported unvaccinated players were told in December they needed to prove they’d had the virus within the past six months in order to apply for an exemption to enter the country and compete in the year’s first grand slam.
That is despite the Federal Government informing Tennis Australia prior infections were not covered in its guidelines for medical exemptions. Letters from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt sent to TA in November allegedly show the governing body was aware of this caveat before giving players advice.
In a statement on Friday night, TA denied misleading any players.
“We have always been consistent in our communications to players that vaccination is the best course of action — not just as the right thing to do to protect themselves and others, but also as the best course of action to ensure they could arrive in Australia. We reject completely that the playing group was knowingly misled,” the statement said.
Mr Hunt wrote to TA CEO Craig Tiley at the end of November to say a recent infection would not grant players an exemption.
“The Australian Border Force has advised that people must be fully vaccinated, as defined by ATAGI (the national advisory body on vaccines) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia,” Mr Hunt wrote.
“In relation to your specific questions, I can confirm that people who contracted Covid-19 within the past six months and seek to enter Australia from overseas, and have not received two doses of a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved or recognised vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated.”
Mr Hunt specifically reiterated to Mr Tiley that “major sporting events” were at the mercy of “relevant jurisdiction” and that Tennis Australia should be ensuring it was working alongside Australian Border Force officials to ensure players were eligible to enter.
“We encourage travellers to consult the requirements the state or territory they wish to enter to compete in the Australian Open and summer series lead-in events, to ensure they can meet the relevant entry requirements,” he wrote.
“I encourage sporting organisations, including Tennis Australia, to continue to work with the Australian Border Force, state and territory health authorities and venues on Covid-safe plans for events, including for international travel where this is relevant.”
It is not known whether Mr Tiley had communicated this to Djokovic or his team prior to the Serbian’s attempt to enter the country.
Originally published as Djokovic’s lavish request denied as tennis boss’ exemption plea revealed