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‘Harassed’ Djokovic can return to Serbia with his ‘head up high’, Serbian president says

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Djokovic was detained on arrival in Australia late on 5 January and his visa cancelled, with the Serb taken to the detention facility at the Park Hotel.

On 10 January, a judge quashed the visa cancellation, but Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoked the visa on public interest grounds on Friday. A court ruled over the weekend to uphold Minister Hawke’s decision.

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australian authorities of “harassing” Djokovic and called the court ruling “a farce.”

He added: “They think they humiliated Djokovic with this, the best player in the world. By the ten-day harassment, they humiliated themselves and Djokovic can return to his country with his head high up and look everyone in the eye.”

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The Serbian Tennis Association also added to the criticism, writing: “The farce is over. The (Association) expresses its great disappointment with this decision of the Australian court. Politics has won over sport this time.”

It also raised questions about what it called “the interference of politics in sports”, questioning what message Australia – which is due to host the 2032 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Brisbane – is sending to the world.

“We believe and hope that even after this injustice done not only to one historically successful athlete but also to an exceptional person, Novak, as usual, will be stronger and better,” it said.

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Djokovic issued a statement on Sunday night addressing the outcome of the hearing.

He said while he was “extremely disappointed” with the ruling, he will “cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to his departure” from Australia.

What have fellow players said?

Briton Andy Murray, who became world number one at the expense of Djokovic in 2016, told the BBC the situation was not good.

He told the broadcaster: “Novak is someone I have known since we were 12 years old, he is someone who I respect and have competed against. I don’t like he is in this situation and I don’t like he has been in detention.

“The situation has not been good all round for anyone. It feels everything here happened extremely last minute and that’s why it became such a mess.

“I wouldn’t want that for Novak, don’t want that for tennis and hopefully it is done now.”

Australian Nick Kyrgios posted a facepalm emoji on Twitter, while Vasek Pospisil wrote Djokovic would have skipped the tournament in Melbourne if he hadn’t been given an exemption.

The Canadian, who co-founded the Professional Tennis Players Association with Djokovic, wrote: “There was a political agenda at play here with the elections coming up which couldn’t be more obvious.

“This is not his fault. He did not force his way into the country and did not “make his own rules”; he was ready to stay home.”

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French tennis player Alize Cornet told Djokovic to “be strong”. 

“I know too little to judge the situation. What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players,” she wrote on Twitter. 

“But none of us stood for him. Be strong @DjokerNole.”

Meanwhile Behrouz Boochani called out the “special treatment” Djokovic has received in court, in contrast to the experience of refugees. 

“The way Djokovic got special treatment in court, the way he has shaken the country – while the experiences of refugees did not – shows that Aus gov and right wing media have succeeded in dehumanising refugees,” he wrote on Twitter. 

“Only through dehumanisation are these distinctions possible.”

What has the political reaction been in Australia?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic was “wrong”.

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Speaking on 2GB radio on Monday morning, he said: “The idea that someone could come and not follow those rules us just not on.

“Australia has very clear rules and Australians have been following those rules. That’s one of the reasons why Australia has one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.

“We apply our rules equally in this country, there was a very clear message sent: if you wanted to come, you needed to get vaccinated or you’ve got to have a valid medical exemption.

“Neither of those were in place. You know, people make their own choices and those choices meant you couldn’t come here and play tennis.”

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews denied suggestions the country had been made to look “foolish” by the situation.

Speaking on ABC, she said: “I understand that this has played out very publicly but … Australians can be very confident that the Morrison government and its ministers will do all that they can to ensure we have strong borders.”

With Reuters.

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