Novak Djokovic offered ‘golden visa’ by UAE before Australia entrance battle: ‘Grateful’

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The Serbian player, 34, today won a court battle as a judge in Australia overturned the decision to cancel his visa. The 20-time Grand Slam winner was detained at an immigration hotel for three days as he hoped to defend his Australian Open title. His lawyers said he entered Australia believing he was medically exempt from the requirement for travellers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The visa row comes as Djokovic confirmed to border officials that he had not received his Covid jabs, having previously spoken out against vaccine mandates.

Djokovic said he had tested positive on December 16 and recorded a negative PCR test on December 22, which would make him exempt.

Amid the star’s visa troubles, unearthed accounts from his time in the UAE show a very different experience after he was offered a “golden visa” by authorities.

In February 2020, he was named as a beneficiary of the country’s 10-year golden card residency, a much sought after possession.

It came after he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to win his fifth Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title.

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Speaking during a press conference after his victory, Djokovic said it was “honour” to receive the visa.

He told reporters: “I’m not really yet sure about all the benefits and privileges of that honour.

“I am grateful because I’ve been friends for years with His Highness [Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai].

“I want to thank him for allowing me to train at his facility for the years I’ve been coming to Dubai.”

The visa scheme was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, in 2019.

Hundreds of businesspeople, residents and investors were named as beneficiaries of the programme.

This included the current Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Reflecting on receiving the golden visa, Djokovic said: “The golden visa is, I like to think, a positive consequence of the relationship that we have.

“As well, alongside other big athletes like Ronaldo. I’m honoured to be in that group.”

The tennis star has been a frequent visitor to the UAE over the years and has competed at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi six times.

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He added: “Dubai has been a very important city in my career, not just because of the tournament, but because I’ve been coming as a tourist here and using this as a base for pre-season training.”

Today, after the judge overturned the decision regarding Djokovic, his family and Serbian officials claimed he had been re-arrested.

Despite an order for Djokovic to be released, the star is now awaiting another decision from the government about his visa.

After Djokovic’s court victory, a statement from Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, said it is up to him to decide if the visa will be cancelled under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act.

The statement read: “The minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic is due to give a press conference with his family at 1pm today, his father has told the BBC.

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