But the Australian judge who blocked Djokovic's deportation first time round, scheduled an emergency hearing late Friday, indicating the tennis ace will again challenge the decision. Top immigration lawyer, Christopher Levingston, said Djokovic could apply to the Federal Court for an injunction to stay the minister's decision.

"Djokovic is extremely well-resourced and has a competent team around him. He can either stay and fight or he can leave," Levingston said.

The three-year bar on a new Australian visa for Djokovic could be waived if it was deemed to be in the public interest, he said. In Belgrade, Djokovic's compatriots reacted with shock to the news.

"To say that a high-level sportsman like Novak is a danger to the health of Australians is just absurd, it's a scandal," said 28-year-old local government employee Petar Stojanovic.

'All fools' 

The megastar flew into Melbourne airport on 5 January claiming a vaccine exemption because of a positive PCR test result on 16 December. Border agents rejected his exemption, revoked his visa and placed him in a notorious Melbourne detention centre where he spent four nights.

The Australian government insists a recent infection does not qualify as a vaccine exemption for foreign nationals trying to enter the country.

Djokovic's top-flight legal team overturned the visa decision in the federal circuit court on Monday because border officials at the airport had failed to give him the agreed time to respond.

Like 'fools' 

Djokovic's vaccine waiver provoked outrage among many Australians who have endured nearly two years of some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions in the world.

Some tennis players say Djokovic should now be allowed to play, but not all have been supportive. World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas criticised his behaviour.

"For sure he has been playing by his own rules," Tsitsipas said in an interview with Indian broadcaster WION. Nearly everyone in the Australian Open had been vaccinated, Tsitsipas said. But others "chose to follow their own way which kind of makes the majority look like they're all fools".

On Wednesday, Djokovic described reports about post-infection outings without a mask in Serbia as "misinformation".

On the day of his claimed positive test in Serbia, he attended a ceremony to honour him with stamps bearing his image. The following day he attended a youth tennis event. He appeared at both apparently without a mask.

Djokovic said in an Instagram post that he only received the PCR test result after going to the children's tennis event on 17 December. But he admitted that he also went ahead with an interview with French sports daily L'Equipe on 18 December.

'Error of judgement' 

"On reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment," Djokovic said.

The journalist who carried out the L'Equipe interview, Franck Ramella, said he had been unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was Covid-positive.

The tennis star also admitted to a mistake on his Australian travel declaration, in which a box was ticked indicating that he had not, or would not, travel in the 14 days before flying to Melbourne.

In fact, social media posts and reports show he flew from Serbia to Spain during that period.

Djokovic blamed his support team for this. "My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box," he said. As Covid-related hospitalisations rise in Melbourne, the Victorian state government said Thursday it would cap capacity at the Australian Open at 50 per cent.

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