The deportation of Novak Djokovic sparked outrage in Serbia Sunday with political leaders and sports bodies rounding on the Australian authorities’ decision to revoke the tennis superstar’s visa on the eve of the Australian Open.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Australia had “humiliated themselves”, while the country’s Olympic Committee called the move a “scandalous” decision as fellow Serbs added their voice to a chorus of disapproval over the court ruling that saw Djokovic deported.
“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of ten days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high,” Vucic told locla media.
Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the unvaccinated tennis star a “political witch hunt”.
The Serbian Olympic Committee also made their disgust clear.
“We are proud of Novak Djokovic and the way he coped with these extremely difficult and unpleasant circumstances. Despite this scandalous decision, we believe Novak came out as the winner again,” the committee said in a statement posted online.
As Djokovic was deported, his family sought to rally support for the embattled tennis star.
“We are very disappointed by a federal court ruling and the fact that Novak has to leave Australia,” the family said in the statement published by local media outlets.
“These are difficult moments, notably for Novak, but what we all have to do — namely us, his family — is to give him support more than ever,” the family added.
– ‘Bitter pill’ –
Miomir Kecmanovic, who was set to face nine-time champion Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open, called the incident a “bitter pill to swallow”.
“Our little Serbian team here in Melbourne is upset and disappointed and I think we have to make an extra effort to somehow avenge our best representative who was prevented from being here,” Kecmanovic wrote on Instagram.
Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment and dashed his dream for the moment of an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam.
The ruling stoked resentment among Djokovic’s fans in Serbia, where hundreds have rallied in support of their native son after he was first detained by authorities.
“It’s a farce … All this has nothing to do with the sport,” Nebojsa Viskovic, a journalist covering notably tennis, told AFP.
“All the criticism about whether he was vaccinated or not doesn’t hold water.”
Many other Serbs echoed the view.
“The decision is not a surprise but is still shameful,” said Jadranka Misic, a 29-year-old sociologist from Belgrade.
For tennis fan Milovan Jankovic, Australia and the tournament itself had secured little more than a Pyrrhic victory.
“It’s going to be ridiculous to hold the tournament without the defending champion and nine-time winner.
“If I were Djokovic I would never set foot in Australia again,” the 57-year-old salesman added.
An “extremely disappointed” Djokovic said he would comply with the unanimous ruling.
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