Regardless of who made an error on the visa, the vaccination waiver or whatever, the reality on Friday for men’s World No.1 Novak Djokovic was spending one of his important religious holidays in an Australian detention hotel while working on his challenge against deportation.
Djokovic has been receiving calls from Serbia, including from his parents and the President, hoping to boost his spirits. A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne sought permission from immigration authorities to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion and celebrate the Orthodox Christmas. “Our Christmas is rich in many customs and it is so important that a priest visits him,” the church’s dean, Milorad Locard, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “The whole thing around this event is appalling. That he has to spend Christmas in detention ... it is unthinkable,” the dean added.
Djokovic’s supporters gathered outside the Park Hotel, which is used to house refugees and asylum seekers, waving flags and banners. They mixed with human rights advocates, who were there more to highlight the plight of other longer-term people in detention, many who have long complained about their living conditions and exposure to the coronavirus in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Djokovic flew to Australia confident he had everything he needed to compete, given he had been approved by the Victoria state government for a medical exemption. But, the same evidence didn’t comply with the Australian government’s regulations.
So, instead of training to defend his Australian Open title, and bid to win a men’s record 21st major title, Djokovic is preparing to go to the Federal Circuit Court on Monday to challenge his visa cancellation and deportation. Even some who have been critical of Djokovic in the past are now in his corner.
“Look, I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum’s health, but how we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad,” Nick Kyrgios, an Australian player and outspoken critic of some of Djokovic’s opinions on vaccinations, posted on Twitter on Friday. “He is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better.” Meanwhile, Jelena Djokovic thanked her husband’s supporters. “Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband,” she posted on Twitter.