The father of tennis star Novak Djokovic has issued an explosive statement after the men’s world number one was detained at Melbourne Airport.

Djokovic is being questioned by the Australian Border Force amid a reported visa bungle, after being granted a medical exemption to compete at the Australian Open.

His father, Srdan Djokovic, told Sputnik Serbia his son had been “held captive” for five hours and that it was not just a fight for Novak but “a fight for the whole world”.

Novak Djokovic was not given any special treatment in regards to his application for a medical exemption, Tennis Australia says.
Novak Djokovic is being held at Melbourne airport over a suspected visa bungle. (AP)

He threatened to call a gathering on the streets if Djokovic wasn’t let into Australia imminently.

“Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,” Srdjan Djokovic said.

“In front of the room are two policemen.

“I have no idea what’s going on, they’re holding my son captive for five hours.

“This is a fight for the libertarian world, not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world.

“If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street, this is a fight for everyone.”

Victorian Sports Minister Jaala Pulford has said that despite a request from the Federal Government, the Victorian Government would not provide Djokovic with individual support for his visa application.

But the Border Force still have the power to grant him entry into the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday warned the controversial tennis star will be “on the next plane home” if the evidence for his medical exemption to travel and compete in the Australian Open doesn’t stack up.

Mr Morrison said Djokovic, whose exemption sparked outrage from many corners, would not be treated differently to anyone else.

“If he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements as fully vaccinated travellers,” Mr Morrison said, on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Novak Djokovic would not receive special treatment. (Alex Ellinghausen)

“So we await his presentation and what evidence he provides to support that. If that evidence is insufficient, then he won’t be treated any differently to anyone else, and he’ll be on the next plane home. 

“So there should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever.”

The Prime Minister had earlier said the Serbian player’s exemption was “a matter for the Victorian government”.

“They have provided him with an exemption to come to Australia, and so we then act in accordance with that decision,” he said.

Djokovic has not revealed his vaccination status but in April last year said he was “opposed to vaccination”.

“I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” he said, in a live Facebook chat.

Tennis Australia later confirmed the exemption, saying it had been granted following a “rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts”.

On Wednesday afternoon, federal Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews issued a strongly worded statement saying the Commonwealth enforced the border, not state or territory governments.

Novak Djokovic is one his way to Australia after being granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open. (Getty)

“Any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with our strict border requirements,” Ms Andrews said.

“While the Victorian Government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth Government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border.

“If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travellers.

“Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements.

“No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”

She said any quarantine arrangements were a matter for the Victorian Government.

‘No special treatment’

Earlier, Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government attempted to calm public anger and confusion, insisting Djokovic had not been afforded any special treatment.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said at a press conference this morning Djokovic was one of 26 applicants who applied for a medical exemption and one of a handful granted.

Although Tennis Australia could not legally reveal why Djokovic had been given the exemption, Australian Technical Advisory Group On Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines were clear on which possible circumstances it would be approved under, Mr Tiley said.

Novak Djokovic announced last night he was on his way to play in the Australian Open. (Instagram)

He said these narrow circumstances included having a previous anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine, having just had major surgery and having had COVID-19 during the past six months.

Mr Tiley said names were redacted during the exemption process ensuring no officials knew they were assessing Djokovic’s application.

“The process has been very clear and we completely understand and empathise with first of all some people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements in the past around vaccination,” he said.

“However, it’s ultimately up to him to discuss with the public his condition if he chooses to do that and the reason why he received his exemption.”

Backlash over exemption

The decision has provoked a heated reaction from Australians online, especially since Melbourne endured months of strict lockdowns and harsh travel restrictions at the height of the pandemic.

Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer Dr Carolyn Broderick said she understood what a challenging time the last couple of years had been for Melburnians and that some people would find the exemption granted to Djokovic “frustrating and upsetting”.

However, Dr Broderick said the tennis star did not receive special treatment.

“I want to make absolutely clear that as has been the case the whole time no-one is or will be receiving special treatment because of who they are or what they have achieved professionally,” she said.

Victoria’s acting Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Jaala Pulford, said while the news of Djokovic’s medical exemption would be “maddening” to some people, the process was robust and the same system applied to everyone.

Mr Tiley said while Tennis Australia was not able to detail the reason Djokovic was given the exemption, he would be urging the tennis star to speak openly about it.

“It’s ultimately up to him,” Mr Tiley said.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic serves during their Davis Cup semi-final match.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic serves during their Davis Cup semi-final match. (AP)

“I will encourage him to talk to the community about it because we have been through a very tough period over the last past two years and we would appreciate some answers to that.”

When asked about the controversy, opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for a “full and transparent explanation” given spectators, officials and other players needed to be vaccinated.

“This exemption needs to be explained, it makes absolutely no sense to me,” Mr Albanese said.

“I think there needs to be a proper explanation and I haven’t heard one yet.”

A sign on display advises the public to the requirements of face masks.

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Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said she was reluctant to comment on “a particular tennis individual”, but wanted to make it clear the decision to allow Novak Djokovic to play in the Australian Open was made nationally, and that doctors had reviewed the decision.

“It was through the Commonwealth ATAGI process that cleared Novak Djokovic to enter the country,” she said.

Ms Allan said it was “up to Novak Djokovic to explain to the Victorian community… the motivations behind his actions” in coming to Australia

She said the state government would expect Djokovic to give a public explanation to the community once he arrived.

Source: 9News

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