“What’s not fair is this political persecution, that everyone is taking part in, even the Australian prime minister,” rages Serbia’s president; Rafa Nadal says Djokovic knew the risks travelling to Australia; Djokovic parents said he is a ‘scapegoat’ and treatment is a ‘political agenda’
Novak Djokovic has been criticised by Rafael Nadal for “not following the rules”, while the Serb’s parents say he is a “scapegoat” and his treatment is a “political agenda”.
The 34-year-old was denied entry at the Australian border because his visa was rejected – his appeal will be heard on Monday.
Djokovic, whose Covid-19 vaccination status is unconfirmed, revealed an “exemption” from Tennis Australia to play the Australian Open without being double-jabbed. But he was not allowed through Melbourne airport, his visa was cancelled and he is currently in a quarantine hotel.
Nadal said: “If he wanted, he would be playing without a problem.
“He has taken his own position and everybody is free to take their position. But there are consequences. I don’t like the situation. In some ways I feel sorry for him.
“But he knew the conditions months ago. He made his own decision.”
Nadal added: “It is normal that people in Australia would be frustrated because they have gone through hard lockdowns. People were not able to come back.
“I believe in what the people who know about medicine say. If they say we need to get vaccinated? Then we need to get vaccinated. That’s my point of view.
“I have been through Covid-19. I got vaccinated twice.
“If you do this, you don’t have any problems to play here. That’s the only clear thing. The clear thing is – if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open.
“The world, in my opinion, has suffered enough [without] not following the rules.
“I don’t encourage anyone [about the vaccine]. Everyone must do what feels good, including him. But there are rules. If you don’t want to get the vaccine, you can have some troubles.
“After a lot of people have died for two years, my feeling is that the vaccine is the only way to stop the pandemic. That’s what the people who know about these things say.”
World No 1 Djokovic’s nine championships at the Australian Open make him the Grand Slam’s most successful player.
He is tied with Nadal and Roger Federer, who will not play in Australia due to injury, on 20 career Grand Slams.
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s family held an emotional news conference at his restaurant in central Belgrade, with his nine previous Australian Open trophies on display.
“They are keeping him in captivity. They are stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and the Serbian people,” said his father Srdjan, who had earlier told local media his son was “the Spartacus of the new world”.
He also said the visa issue was “nothing to do with sport, it is a political agenda”.
His mother, Dijana, added: “They are keeping him as a prisoner, that’s not human and it’s not fair.
“This is a political attack on Novak Djokovic…he is a scapegoat.”
‘It is public humiliation’
Serbian journalist Sasa Ozmo said: “Leave aside who he is. To say to a person: ‘You have been granted, you can come’. Then you come and they don’t let you in?
“That is a humiliation. It is a public humiliation in front of the world.
“It isn’t something that is easily forgiven.”
Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian President, said: “What can we do? I spoke to Djokovic for the first time [on Wednesday night], then the second time [Thursday morning]. Nikola Selakovic, the foreign minister, is in the US, so Vlada Maric called the Australian Ambassador last night and then this morning again.
“All asking just one thing: to let Novak Djokovic move out from this horrific hotel into a rented home where he can prepare for the tournament, while he is awaiting a court decision on Monday.
“In this house, he can be under surveillance 24 hours.
“Whatever Novak has asked his country to do we did, we wanted to do it and it’s our obligation to do it. It is our obligation, as a state, to protect the interests of our citizens. We are dedicated to that.
“I spoke to Novak last night, this morning, there is this time difference, but our foreign ministry will do everything, we are active on the issue.
“Our prime minister is talking to a woman at the home affairs, this lady is the one who is making decisions.
“What’s not fair is this political persecution, that everyone is taking part in, even the Australian prime minister.
“I’m afraid that this kind of political ranting against Novak Djokovic will continue. They want to prove something else. When you can’t beat someone then you do these kind of things.”
‘The draw opens up – that is no secret’
Djokovic’s fellow Serbian player Dusan Lajovic said: “We all support each other. There is no dilemma between us. We should not pay too much attention to ‘he says, she says’.”
Daniil Medvedev said: “The situation is not over. He can still come and compete at the Australian Open depending on how it’s going to evolve.
“But when somebody who has won it nine times is not there? The draw opens up. That is no secret.”
Matteo Berrettini said: “For sure I have sympathy with Novak. Nobody wants to be in that situation. It’s not nice.”
“But I understand the Australian people. It’s a tough situation.”