Novak Djokovic says he is ‘not an IT expert’ as questions remain over positive Covid test

Novak Djokovic on Sunday failed to give any clarity over the ongoing questions surrounding the medical exemption he received to play in the Australian Open, which was later revoked following an outcry over his Covid status.

The world No 1 will on Monday play his first match since his disastrous trip to Melbourne, which saw him blocked from defending his Australian Open title when his visa was revoked on account of his unvaccinated status.

There remain doubts over the timing of his Dec 16 positive PCR reading, with reports pointing to an apparent discrepancy with the serial number attached to his result, suggesting his test might have been taken later in the month.

Speaking ahead of his opener at the Dubai Duty Free Championships, his first match since Dec 3, Djokovic said that there was nothing more to say about the matter.

“I understand [why people have questions],” he said. “I’ve seen that media has been speculating about the validity of the tests. What I can tell you is what I told Amol [Rajan] with the BBC. I’m not an IT expert. I have done [as many tests] in the last two years, as probably anybody else on the tour, so many PCR tests, rapid antigenic tests.

“I’m not in a position to understand how these tests are being processed and registered. I’m glad the Institute of Public Health in Serbia has come out publicly and validated those tests. That’s all I can say, really. I’m not in a position, neither am I an expert, to go more into detail.”

A report last month suggested Djokovic’s positive Covid-19 test’s unique confirmation code was out of sequence with other tests taken in Serbia at that time and instead correlated with tests taken between Dec 25-28. But prosecutors in Serbia said there was no ­evidence the positive coronavirus test was falsified.

Regardless, Djokovic’s options on tour are more limited than ever. He is still refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine, meaning he could be blocked from competing at the French Open or the US Open.

With vaccine mandates unlikely to apply at Wimbledon, it could well be the only grand-slam this season where Djokovic is able to play, and attempt to chase Rafael Nadal.

Apart from major titles, Djokovic’s absence from the tour could already potentially cost him his world No 1 crown. Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is on course to overtake him and reach the top of the rankings for the first time if he wins the Mexican Open this week.

“It’s in his hands,” Djokovic said. “He deserves to be No 1. Eventually it’s going to happen. If it happens this week, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him.”

He revealed on Sunday that it took him 10 days to get back on court after returning from Australia, but that he did not find it “difficult”, especially once he had Dubai – where he is a five-time champion – as a goal to strive for. He faces Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti in the first round on Monday night.

“It wasn’t really difficult for me to pick up a racket and go out and practise the sport and just play,” Djokovic said. “I’m as well prepared as I possibly can be.”

As the only player in the ATP top 100 who is unvaccinated, it remains to be seen whether Djokovic’s peers will welcome him back. Some bemoaned his visa trouble for distracting from the tennis and, in an interview with the BBC last week, Djokovic said he was “really hurt” by the reception he got from some players in Melbourne.

“Well, so far here most of the players that I’ve seen – I haven’t seen too many players –  have been positive and welcoming,” Djokovic said. “It’s nice to see obviously, I can’t say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange. But here it’s well so far.”

Former world No 1 Andy Murray will open this evening’s session on Centre Court, facing qualifier Chris O’Connell, of Australia, as he attempts to bounce back from a crushing 6-0, 6-1 loss to Roberto Bautista Agut at the Qatar Open last week.

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