Two journalists working for French sports newspaper L’Equipe were not told Novak Djokovic was Covid-positive before, during or after a 33-minute interview with the tennis star in Belgrade on December 18, the outlet reported Wednesday.
Journalists Franck Ramella and photographer Etienne Garnier reported that Djokovic seemed “well,” despite it later emerging he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 two days prior.
Separately on Wednesday, Djokovic acknowledged he knew of the positive diagnosis at the time of the interview and apologized.
The L’Equipe article states Ramella has since tested negative to Covid-19, but it does not mention Garnier’s health.
Ramella told CNN he was en route to Melbourne to cover the Australian Open.
Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, is currently fighting to be allowed into Australia to compete in the tournament.
He applied for an exemption from Australian rules mandating that arrivals must be fully-vaccinated against Covid-19, using a positive test result on December 16 as evidence that he should be allowed into the country. Photos posted on social media show him unmasked at events in mid-December,
While Djokovic admitted Wednesday that he did not immediately isolate after testing positive for Covid-19, he denied knowing he had the virus when attending public events.
The French journalists’ interview with Djokovic was conducted in Belgrade at the player’s Novak Center, L’Equipe reported.
“As we waited for about 90 minutes, the (masked) staff offered us an excellent assortment of sliced fruit. At last Djokovic arrived, all smiles, masked as well,” a CNN translation of the French language article reads.
It is unclear whether staff at the Novak Center knew of Djokovic’s positive diagnosis.
The article acknowledged that Djokovic kept his mask on for the duration of the indoor interview, but took it off when asked to pose for a professional photo without it.
“For thirty-three minutes, according to the timer on the recorder, Djokovic answered the questions with confidence. We were being safe, facing each other at a distance of nearly one meter, sitting on opposite sides of a long rectangular table. When Etienne asked him to remove his mask for five minutes during the interview, Djokovic refused,” the article reads.
“Then the photo session took place. Obviously, the Serbian champion removed his mask. We did not want him to pose with his face half-covered. Then he followed the instructions of Etienne, who was masked. He held the trophy at arm’s length, moving from one position to another, smiling or grinning to show that he had won. He also shouted to make it even more genuine,” the story continues.
The article was published just hours before Djokovic apologized for keeping the interview appointment despite being aware of his positive PCR diagnosis from a test done two days earlier.
“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” Djokovic wrote in a statement published on his social media accounts Wednesday.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”