The world’s best male tennis player Novak Djokovic spent Orthodox Christmas on Friday in an immigrant detention hotel in Australia as he sought to push back the deportation due to the country’s COVID-19 rules and participate in the Australian Open.
Djokovic received calls from his native Serbia, including his parents and the president, who hoped to cheer him up during the holidays.
On Instagram, he posted: âThank you people all over the world for your continued support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.
The 34-year-old vaccine-skeptic was not allowed into the country on Wednesday evening when federal border officials at Melbourne airport rejected his medical exemption to Australia’s strict vaccination requirements against COVID-19.
He has been confined to the Melbourne Detention Hotel pending a court hearing on Monday, a week before the tournament begins, where he is looking to win his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.
During the day, Djokovic’s supporters, waving banners, gathered in front of the Park Hotel, sheltering refugees and asylum seekers.
A priest at the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne asked to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate Orthodox Christmas, but was refused by immigration officials because the hotel is firm.
âOur Christmas is rich in many customs, and it is so important that a priest visit it,â Church Dean Milorad Locard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. âEverything surrounding this event is appalling. That he has to spend Christmas in detention … it’s unthinkable.
The Australian Border Force said on Friday that after further investigations into two other people linked to the Australian Open, one had voluntarily left the country and another had been taken into custody pending an investigation. expulsion.
The Czech embassy identified one of them as 38-year-old doubles player Renata VorÃ¡ÄovÃ¡ and said she would not participate in the tournament.
Australia’s COVID-19 rules state that inbound travelers must have received two injections of an approved vaccine or must be granted an exemption for a bona fide medical reason, such as an acute condition, to avoid quarantine. All players, staff, officials and fans must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the tournament site.
Djokovic flew to Australia after obtaining a medical exemption backed by the country’s tennis federation and approved by the state government of Victoria. The reasons for the exemption were not disclosed. But the Australian government declared him invalid upon arrival.
The dispute has become a touchy subject in a city where residents spent 256 days in 2020-2021 under severe travel restrictions. Djokovic’s exemption sparked allegations the star athlete received special treatment.
While some players sympathized with his predicament, others said getting the shot would have avoided any drama.
But amid the final turning point of the dispute, even some who have criticized Djokovic in the past are now apparently in his corner.
“Look, I really believe in taking action, I got the vaccine because of others and for my mother’s health, but the way we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad,” said Nick Kyrgios, Australian player and outspoken critic of some of Djokovic’s opinions. on vaccines, posted on twitter. “He’s one of our great champions but at the end of the day he’s human. To do better.”
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said earlier this week that 26 people linked to the tournament had requested medical exemptions and only a “handful” had been granted. Three of them have since been disputed.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports