Is he allowed in or not? This question has stunned Australia and the entire tennis world. As world number one Novak Djokovic spends his second day in a Melbourne hotel, his lawyers are preparing for Monday’s crucial hearing.
“They are holding him in captivity. They are trampling on Novak to trample all of Serbia.” In an emotional press conference – with his nine Australian Open titles in place – Djokovic’s family asked the Australian government for accountability.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also jumped the gap in Djokovic’s favour. “The harassment of the best player in the world must end,” he said.
Djokovic awaits his fate in a detention hotel in Melbourne. The 20-time Grand Slam winner had been given medical exemption from the state of Victoria to take part in the first Grand Slam of the year, but it wasn’t enough at border controls to allow him into Australia.
A crucial hearing is scheduled for Monday, when Djokovic’s lawyers will try to get the star player off to the start of the Australian Open.
It won’t be easy, because states can make a medical exception, but the federal government controls international borders and can therefore reject an exception.
Djokovic is free to leave the country whenever he wants. Even the border police will help him with that.
Certainly, the Serbian accusation will not help his case. Home Secretary Karen Andrews reiterated that Djokovic is not a “prisoner” in Australia.
“He is not being held in Australia, he is free to leave the country whenever he wants. Even the border police will help him with that,” she said.
Critics say Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to use the case to bolster his credibility with the upcoming election in mind, but the government denies this.
Support from the American angle
Meanwhile, the tennis world is also divided over the Djokovic issue. Rafael Nadal said earlier that he felt sorry for the Serbian. “But Novak makes his own decisions,” Nadal added. “Everyone is free to choose for himself. But then you also have to bear the consequences of that choice, right?”
But from the American angle there is support for the number one position in the world. “Novak, hold on there, my friend,” said Tennys Sandgren. “I hope you get out of there soon.” He added on Twitter that Australia “does not deserve to host a major tournament”.
John Isner also expressed his support for Djokovic. “What he’s going through right now is not right,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is no justification for the way he is being treated. He followed the rules, he was allowed into Australia and he is now being held against his will. It is a disgrace.”
Jelena Djokovic: “The only rule is love”
Djokovic’s wife took the opportunity on Christmas – January 7 and 8 according to the Russian Orthodox tradition – to give a conciliatory tone. “It’s now Christmas for us and we wish we were together, but my only consolation is that we are all healthy. We will learn from this experience,” she wrote.
“Thank you for all the support and love. The one rule we all must respect is love and respect,” she noted, referring to a statement by the Australian prime minister, who said he did not want to make an exception for Djokovic. “Rules are rules.”
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