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Authorities detain another top-flight tennis player over visa issues ahead of Australian Open

By Aleks Klosok, Ben Church and Amy Cassidy, CNN

The Australian Border Force (ABF) have detained top-flight tennis player Renata Voráčová over visa disputes, as the fallout from the Novak Djokovic turmoil continues to cause controversy ahead of the Australian Open.

“We can confirm that the Czech tennis player Renata Voráčová is in the same detention as Djokovic, together with several other tennis players, in Melbourne,” the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement to CNN.

“Our Consulate General in Sydney is now dealing with the situation and is in touch with the tennis player.”

Australian newspaper The Age reports that the former Wimbledon doubles semifinalist entered Australia with a medical exemption on the basis she had been infected with Covid-19 in the last six months.

The 38-year-old Voráčová has already played in a warm-up tournament in Melbourne having lost in the first round of the Women’s Doubles competition at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament.

READ: Djokovic being ‘treated like a prisoner’ by Australian authorities, according to his mother

Without naming Voráčová, ABF told CNN Friday that its investigation into the visa status of the individual connected to the tournament had concluded.

“This person has been taken into immigration detention pending their removal from Australia,” the ABF said in a statement.

“All travelers who enter Australia must do so in accordance with our strict laws and entry requirements, regardless of their status or their reasons for entering the country,” the ABF added.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said that, according to its information, Voráčová has a proven non-infectious status that entitled her to participate in the tournament and has subsequently lodged a protest with the Australian authorities asking for an explanation.

However, it confirmed Voráčová had decided to withdraw from the tournament and leave the country due to the limited training now possible.

“Our embassy in Australia is assisting her in completing the formalities for leaving the country and will continue to be in contact with her in case of any complications,” it added.

Neither Tennis Australia nor Voráčová’s representatives were immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN.

In addition, another unknown individual has voluntarily departed Australia following inquiries, the ABF said.

Leaked letter

A letter obtained by an Australian newspaper appears to show Tennis Australia may have wrongly informed unvaccinated players they could enter the country to take part in the season-opening grand slam.

The Herald Sun newspaper published Friday what appears to be a letter sent from Tennis Australia, the tournament organizers, to players on December 7.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the letter.

The letter advises that a confirmed Covid-19 infection in the last six months along with an accompanying letter from a doctor or public health authority would be considered as valid documentation for a medical exemption.

Players were urged to submit their applications no later than December 10, the document states.

The guidance appears to contradict advice in a widely reported letter sent by Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt to tournament director Craig Tiley in November which stressed that a Covid-19 infection in the past six months did not meet the requirements for quarantine-free entry.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison read the letter to reporters Thursday, saying it clearly stated based on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI), unvaccinated people who tested positive for coronavirus in the six months prior to entering the country did not meet the entry requirements for a medical exemption.

“People must be fully vaccinated as defined by the ATAGI to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia. This means people who do not meet the ATAGI definition of fully vaccinated will not be approved for quarantine-free entry, regardless of whether they have received foreign vaccine exemptions,” Morrison said.

Tennis Australia has not publicly commented since Wednesday, when Tiley defended the medical exemption granted to Djokovic.

Amid worldwide controversy over the saga, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this week that Djokovic, who hasn’t publicly revealed his vaccination status, “didn’t have a valid medical exemption” to the vaccination requirement for arrivals into the country.

Djokovic was transferred to Melbourne’s Park Hotel, a detention facility for refugees and asylum seekers, after his visa to enter Australia was blocked, according to CNN affiliates Seven Network and Nine News.

The hearing concerning Djokovic’s appeal of the cancellation of his travel visa was adjourned to Monday.

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CNN’s Hannah Ritchie contributed to this report.

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