Djokovic thanks fans for their support as he spends second night in immigration detention while legal teams prepare court fight


Novak Djokovic on Friday thanked people around the world for their support amid a visa row over COVID-19 vaccines that has seen him being detained at a Melbourne hotel ahead of this month's Australian Open.

Key points:

  • Novak Djokovic's legal team is expected to file documents today in his challenge against his deportation from Australia
  • A political storm has erupted over the tennis player's detention, with the Australian Home Affairs Minister telling him he was free to leave the country
  • Djokovic received support from some of his fellow pros, but former coach Boris Becker said the Serbian risked his career by not getting vaccinated

"Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated," the Serbian wrote on Instagram.

The message comes after the tennis star spent a second night in a Melbourne immigration detention hotel as his legal team prepares for a court battle to try and have the world number one's visa cancellation overturned.

Instead of spending Friday visiting the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Brunswick East, as he does for Orthodox Christmas each year, Djokovic remained in detention at the Park Hotel in Carlton as he waits to see if he will be able to stay in the country to compete in the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic posted an Instagram story thanking fans for their support.

Djokovic was stopped at Melbourne airport on Wednesday night after the federal government cancelled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Serbian's legal team is today expected to file further documents in his challenge in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which is scheduled to resume on Monday at 10:00am.

Judge Anthony Kelly has ordered that Djokovic cannot be deported before 4:00pm on Monday.

Supporters protested outside the hotel where Djokovic is being detained.(AP: Hamish Blair)

On Friday, the political fallout of the Australian government's decision continued to escalate.

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic called for Australia to stop the "harassment" of Djokovic, while the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made representations to the Australian ambassador "regarding the inappropriate and inhumane treatment to which the best tennis player in the world".

Foreign Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Djokovic was free to leave the country at any time.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 27 seconds1m 27s The Victorian government is deflecting responsibility for Novak Djokovic immigration detention saga.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government yesterday said it was unaware of federal correspondence with Tennis Australia that warned unvaccinated players would not be granted exemptions to enter the country if they had recently contracted COVID-19.

Djokovic's family members complained about the tennis player's treatment, saying he was the victim of a "worldwide scandal" and was being kept in a hotel with bugs and poor food.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 1 minute 21 seconds1m 21s 'Shame on them': Novak Djokovic's supporters slam the Australian government.

The hotel also houses dozens of refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom were brought to Australia for medical treatment from offshore detention facilities.

Throughout the pandemic, those detained have raised concerns about overcrowding and medical care at the hotel, and there has been a fire and a COVID outbreak at the facility in recent months.

A small group of Djokovic's supporters continued to protest outside the hotel on Friday evening.

Three more players could be caught in similar situation

At least three other participants in the Australian Open with the same medical exemption as Novak Djokovic are already in the country with more potentially arriving over the next week, a source told Reuters.

Late on Friday, the ABC revealed that Czech player Renata Voráčová had also had her visa cancelled after being granted a similar exemption to Djokovic.

Voráčová was already in Australia and had taken part in a warm-up tournament but was taken to the Park Hotel after being informed by Australian Border Force officials that she must leave the country.

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Ms Andrews confirmed the Australian Border Force was assessing the credentials of two others who entered the country under the same exemption granted to Djokovic.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that a third participant in the Grand Slam also entered Australia on the same framework, which had been put in place by Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government.

Exemptions may also have been granted to players or officials who are yet to arrive in Australia, the source added.

Djokovic finds support from some fellow pros

The world number one found some support from his colleagues, including Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios, who last year labelled Djokovic a "strange cat" and was critical of him for organising a tournament during the first wave of COVID infections around the world, said the handling of the situation was "really bad".

"I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum's health, but how we are handling Novak's situation is bad, really bad," he wrote on Twitter.

"This is one of our great champions, but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better."

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World number seven Matteo Berrettini, who lost to Djokovic in last year's Wimbledon final,  said he sympathised with the Serbian but could understand Australia's position.

"No one would want to find themselves in such a situation," Berrettini said.

"I don't know how many hours he was detained, but it's not nice to be in that kind of situation.

"At the same time, I can understand why the Australians feel this way, I think Melbourne has had the longest quarantines in the world, so I can understand people."

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American John Isner, the world number 24, said there was "no justification" for Djokovic's treatment.

"He followed the rules, was allowed to enter Australia and now he's being detained against his own will. This is such a shame," Isner wrote on Twitter.

But tennis great Boris Becker, who coached Djokovic to four Australian Open titles, said the 20-time grand slam winner risked ruining his chance to cement himself as the greatest player ever by not getting vaccinated.

"It is not just about Australia. The fact is that we are living in a different world, and he is going to find it very hard to live the life of a professional tennis player travelling around without the vaccination," Becker wrote in his column in UK newspaper The Daily Mail.

"Those are the rules, whether one likes them or not, and you have to accept it. Maybe one day we will get back to a more normal situation, but at 34 he does not have much time left to pursue his goals."

ABC/wires

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news



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