Belgrade – Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia sparked outrage in Serbia on Sunday, with political leaders and sports bodies lashing out at the decision to revoke the tennis superstar’s visa on the eve of the Australian Open.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Australia had “humiliated themselves,” while the country’s Olympic committee called the move a “scandalous” decision, as fellow Serbs added their voice to a chorus of disapproval over the court ruling that saw Djokovic deported.
“They think that they have by this— this mistreatment of ten days — humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves,” Vucic told a state media outlet. “Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high.”
Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the unvaccinated tennis star a “political witch hunt.”
The Serbian Olympic Committee also made expressed its disgust.
“We are proud of Novak Djokovic and the way he coped with these extremely difficult and unpleasant circumstances,” the committee said in a statement posted online. “Despite this scandalous decision, we believe Novak came out as the winner again.”
Miomir Kecmanovic, who was set to face Djokovic in the first round of the Australian Open, called the incident a “bitter pill to swallow.”
“Our little Serbian team here in Melbourne is upset and disappointed and I think we have to make an extra effort to somehow avenge our best representative who was prevented from being here,” Kecmanovic wrote on Instagram.
Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to cancel his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment and dashed his dream, for the moment, of winning an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam.
The ruling stoked resentment among Djokovic’s fans in Serbia, where hundreds have rallied in support of their native son since he was first detained by authorities.
“It’s a farce … All this has nothing to do with the sport,” Nebojsa Viskovic, a journalist covering tennis, said.
“All the criticism about whether he was vaccinated or not doesn’t hold water.”
Many other Serbs agreed.
“The decision is not a surprise but is still shameful,” said Jadranka Misic, a 29-year-old sociologist from Belgrade.
For tennis fan Milovan Jankovic, Australia and the tournament itself had secured little more than a Pyrrhic victory.
“It’s going to be ridiculous to hold the tournament without the defending champion and nine-time winner,” the 57-year-old salesman said.
“If I were Djokovic, I would never set foot in Australia again.”
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