Novak Djokovic has been left stranded overnight in a police-guarded room at Melbourne airport amid a visa mix-up that could derail his hopes of defending his Australian Open title.
Meanwhile, his father Srdjan Djokovic has issued an urgent statement to the Australian government, asking them to free his son.
‘I have no idea what’s going on, they’re holding my son captive for five hours,’ he said. ‘This is not a fight for the libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world!,’ he said.
‘If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street, this is a fight for everybody.’
His father also told a Serbian radio station his superstar son was being kept isolated in a room away from his support staff and without access to a mobile phone.
‘In front of the room are two policemen,’ he told the B92 internet portal.
The extraordinary, escalating soap opera surrounding the world’s best men’s player took a new turn on Wednesday night when he flew straight into a political storm and a visa controversy on arrival into Tullamarine Airport on a 14-hour flight from Dubai.
Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has arrived in the country amid a political storm
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic (pictured with physiotherapist Ulises Badio) has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team’s predicament
A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room (pictured)
The nine-time Open champion may have been armed with the vaccination exemption that will allow him to compete in Melbourne but apparently not with the correct visa to enter the country.
As of 4.00am on Thursday, the Serbian star still hadn’t gotten through passport control, and had endured several hours of discussions with Border Force officials.
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team’s predicament.
The photo features himself and physiotherapist Ulises Badio kicking back on large armchairs with the caption: ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’.
A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room.
The 34-year-old, never a stranger to controversy, has found himself the subject of a major public backlash in Australia after revealing on Tuesday that he’d received the vaccination exemption which allowed him to bid for a record 21st major title.
But amid the storm, tournament director Craig Tiley insisted the world No.1 was getting no special treatment and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the player ‘would be on the next plane home’ if he could not provide the proper evidence for his exemption.
But Djokovic was embroiled in entry problems as Victoria’s Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirmed the state government did not support his visa application, effectively putting his fate in the hands of federal government.
The Age newspaper said the federal Border Force had contacted the Victoria state government asking if it would support his application after his team applied for the wrong kind of visa.
Pulford said in a tweet: ‘The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
‘We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.’
It was not clear whether the federal government would allow his entry and the Border Force could not be reached for comment.
As Djokovic was left in isolation to ponder this astonishing start to his trip, there were also growing demands for him to clear up any doubts over the reasons for why he’d been given the exemption.
Toni Nadal, the uncle and long-time former coach of Djokovic’s great rival Rafael Nadal, urged him to clarify the situation.
Writing in his newspaper column in El Pais, Nadal said: ‘There are almost six million people who have lost their lives due to this damn virus and many other millions who have received the vaccine.
‘I want to think that Novak is no stranger to all this and that he will clear up the doubts as a sign of human sensitivity and understanding.’
Even the great Rod Laver, fearing that Djokovic’s participation on the court named after him at Melbourne Park could see passions running high, wants him the Serb to open up.
‘I think it might get ugly. I’d think the Victorian people would be thinking, ‘Yes I’d love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there’s a right way and a wrong way’.
‘If he’s got a reason for (the exemption) then … we should know it.’
Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty said: ‘I think it’s a tough one. As we’ve seen a little bit in the last day or so, from the Australian public, I know how hard it has been for Australians… but in particular Victorians have had a real rough trot over the last 18 months and two years.
‘I understand why they may be frustrated with the decision. Ultimately, I have no interest in speaking about Novak’s medical history. It’s not my decision. Those decisions are made. They’re completely out of my control.’
Source: Daily Mail