Novak Djokovic back on court, as family pledge to keep fighting for him
Updated 21:40, 11-Jan-2022
Giulia Carbonaro

Novak Djokovic has returned to training after being released from Australian immigration detention on Monday, where he had been since Thursday after a dispute over his medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirements to play.

"I'm pleased and grateful that the judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete in the Australian Open," the Serbian wrote on Twitter, posting a picture with his team on court at Melbourne Park.

"I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans."

Fans of the tennis star rejoiced on Monday after the court in Melbourne ruled the Serbian player should "be released immediately" from detention. The judge deemed the federal government's decision last week to revoke Djokovic's visa on vaccination grounds "unreasonable."

In an interview with British broadcaster GB News his uncle accused the government of "setting a trap for animals" by threatening to revoke his visa again. But in a press conference in Belgrade other members of the family were determinedly upbeat and conciliatory.

His brother Djordje told reporters that he admired the way judge Anthony Kelly handled the case.

"We love Australia," he said. "Novak loves Australia. He has won there so many times. We've been there so many times and you know, we'll keep on coming back because we love that country."

Djokovic's mother Dijana said she was very worried but "I just hope that it will stay like this, that he will be free and he will play."

Asked what she'd say to the Australian government about him potentially being deported she replied: "I don't want to say anything about that. I mean, they are doing whatever they need to do, but we will fight again."

Djokovic entered the country with what he believed was a valid medical exemption to vaccination rules, stating he had been infected with COVID-19 last month and recovered. But border guards rejected the documents, tore up the visa and put the world number one men's tennis player into detention while he waited for his appeal to come before the courts.

At the hearing, Judge  Kelly said Djokovic had not been given enough time to appeal and the ruling came after a transcript of Djokovic's interview with border officers was released by the court, in which he complained of not being given enough time to get the proper documents in place.

In the transcript, Djokovic was recorded as saying: "You're giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don't have? At 4 o'clock in the morning?"

Chanting and dancing followed the announcement of the court ruling outside Djokovic's lawyer's office in Melbourne, with the police intervening to disperse the crowd with pepper spray when fans blocked the way of a car leaving the premises, which they believed was carrying the tennis star.

But the unvaccinated champion's victory isn't necessarily a sure ticket to play in the Australian Open, which begins on January 17, as the Australian government has threatened to enact another move to deport Djokovic from the country.



A spokesman for Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said he was considering using his personal power to again revoke Djokovic's visa, a decision that would prevent the Serbian player from defending his title at the Grand Slam tournament not only in the upcoming event, but would also bar Djokovic from entering the country for the next three years.

The row over the participation of Djokovic in the Australian Open, tightly linked to the country's strict measures against COVID-19 and the champion's unvaccinated status, has caused a rift between Canberra and Belgrade, with the latest developments in the story only deepening this divide.

"The process should have ended when the court ruled on the matter," Serbia's parliamentary speaker and former Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Serbia's Happy TV. "It defies common sense."


Supporters of Djokovic dance and celebrate outside the offices of his legal team in Melbourne on Monday. /Patrick Hamilton/AFP

Supporters of Djokovic dance and celebrate outside the offices of his legal team in Melbourne on Monday. /Patrick Hamilton/AFP

Even more outraged are members of Djokovic's family back home in Serbia.

After his father Srdjan Djokovic accused Australia of "holding my son captive" last week, the 34-year-old's uncle is now complaining that Canberra is playing a game of cat and mouse with Djokovic, in what Goran Djokovic said is "like a horror."

"For me it looks like a trap for the animals, you know, like a wolf, animals in the mountain you know," Goran Djokovic said in an interview with British broadcaster GB News in Belgrade.

"They invite him to come and they trapped him and put him in the jail, trying to put him on his knees," Djokovic added. "But it's not possible. We're Serbian, we're a very proud Balkan nation."

The Serbian player's uncle added that "Novak didn't break any law," and he doesn't think Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be re-elected in April because of this dispute with the tennis champion.

Novak Djokovic has not appeared in public or made any official statement following the court ruling on Monday.


Cover photo:  a screen grab of a Twitter post by Novak Djokovic after he won a court challenge to remain in Australia, uploaded on January 11, 2022. Twitter/DjokerNole via Reuters 

Source(s): AFP ,Reuters

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