Novak Djokovic’s father has blasted the Australian government for the tennis star’s treatment, comparing it to an “assassination attempt”.
- Djokovic’s father likened the decision to an assassination attempt, then distanced himself from the comments
- The Serbian president has accused the Australian government of using Djokovic for a political agenda
- Serbian residents say they are angry at the eviction
Srdjan Djokovic has taken to social media to slam the Federal Court’s decision to uphold the government’s decision to cancel his son’s visa.
“Attempt on the life of the best athlete in the world is over, 50 bullets in Novak’s chest,” read a message on his Instagram.
Mr Djokovic later distanced himself from the post, saying the words were not his own but those of his son’s fans.
In a statement, the Djokovic family said: “We will be there to share the blows he received, to help him regain his energy, his faith in this sport, above all in fair play, which was completely missing here.”
As Serbs voted on the future of their constitution on Sunday, those divided by politics were also united in anger over the fate of their local hero and national icon.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić spoke to Djokovic moments before his expulsion from Melbourne.
He said Australia’s treatment of the tennis star during his 10-day stay amounted to torture – echoing comments he made in an Instagram video posted on Friday.
“It was not just intellectual but physical torture against Novak Djokovic,” Mr Vucic said.
“And there was something else that was even worse: it was an organized witch hunt against Novak Djokovic.”
Mr Vučić criticized the Australian government for changing the rules based on a political agenda.
“If you were to say clearly that anyone who is not vaccinated cannot enter the country, Novak Djokovic would not have left or he would have been vaccinated,” he said.
“Those who think they have shown how much they care about their principles have only shown that they never had any.”
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić maintained a measured response throughout the saga, but called the final decision to expel Djokovic “outrageous”.
“It’s unbelievable to witness brutal lies, unbelievable lies in Australia from state officials,” she told reporters in the capital Belgrade.
Earlier, the country’s Sports and Youth Minister Vanja Udovičić said that Serbia was considering the next diplomatic steps it could take.
“It’s not about sports anymore, it’s about the encroachment on their freedom and how every citizen of this planet should be treated,” he said.
“Muhammad Ali was also reviled”
Athletes and politicians across Europe have taken to social media to share messages of support for the world number one.
On Twitter, The national Olympic team of Serbia declared, “Despite the great injustice done to him, [Novak Djokovic] is our winner!”
“Only he knows how difficult the previous days were for him, and in such circumstances he showed all the manners of the greatest champion!
Former UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić also backed his compatriot.
“The legacy of [Novak Djokovic] will go beyond reaching an all-time tennis record”, he wrote on Twitter.
“It should not be forgotten that Muhammad Ali was also vilified, after refusing to go to Vietnam. The rest is history.”
“Very ugly and unfair”
Anger has been rising in the streets of the capital since the Serbian national hero was taken into migrant detention last week.
“I’m really, like, angry about this, and I’m also sad about this,” Belgrade resident Ivan Sascie told the ABC.
“I think it’s a bad decision because he is the number one tennis player.
“Of course Serbia is sad, you know, he’s like a national hero here.”
Sladjana Radovic accused the Australian government of not liking Serbs.
“I think it’s very ugly and unfair, and he really doesn’t deserve it.
“He’s done a lot of good things for tennis, for Australians.
“I don’t know, maybe because he’s from Serbia or I don’t know why, [but] I think they don’t like it.”
“He’s one of the best things Serbia has at the moment… unfortunately you don’t have a lot of good things in Serbia, so Novak is the best.”
“Focus on the game and the tournament that I love”
In a statement, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision” but hoped the world’s attention would soon return to tennis.
Djokovic boarded a flight from Melbourne to Dubai just hours after a unanimous decision by a panel of three judges dismissed his appeal against the cancellation of his visa on Sunday.
It is unclear whether the world’s top-ranked male tennis player will fly to Belgrade to spend time with his family or return to his luxury home in Monte Carlo.
A representative for the tennis ace says Djokovic will not comment further until the Australian Open ends at the end of the month.
The Serb was aiming for a record 21st Grand Slam win at the tournament, which would have seen him edge out Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the most successful men’s singles tennis champion in history.