Djokovic describes his Australian visa ordeal as unfortunate
Novak Djokovic called his detention and expulsion from Australia which prevented him from defending his Australian Open title an “unfortunate event” and thanked the Serbian president for his support.
An 11-day saga over Djokovic’s entry visa ended with the Serb being deported for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
The top-ranked tennis star met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Thursday and called the events in Australia “unexpected, to say the least.”
“I wanted to meet you today because, mainly as a citizen of Serbia, I felt a great need to thank you for the great support you, as the President of Serbia, gave me, as well as all state institutions during the unfortunate events in Australia,” Djokovic said.
“Although I was alone in detention and faced many problems and challenges, I did not feel alone. I had a huge support mainly from my family, from all the people close to my life, from the whole Serbian nation, from many people of good intentions from the region and from the world.
He did not discuss details of events in Australia, promising to give his “version” later.
Djokovic’s encounter with the increasingly autocratic Vucic has drawn criticism from some of his fans in the Balkan country, where he is widely seen as an icon and a hero. Critics say Vucic used the event to boost his popularity ahead of the general election scheduled for April.
The meeting came a day after Serbia’s state prosecutors dismissed suggestions by some Western media that Djokovic used a false positive test for COVID-19 to try to enter Australia.
To enter Australia, Djokovic submitted a positive test issued in Serbia on December 16 for a visa waiver on the grounds that he had recently recovered from the virus.
He is not vaccinated and the Australian government later decided to cancel his visa and deport Djokovic, saying his presence in Australia could stir up anti-vaccination sentiments.
Djokovic’s rival Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open for a record 21st men’s Grand Slam singles title. Djokovic and Roger Federer have 20 major titles.
Vucic praised Djokovic and said he was certain he would beat Nadal and Federer at the upcoming French Open and Wimbledon – the Grand Slam tournaments where Djokovic could also face restrictions if he did not get vaccinated.
AP writer Jovana Gec contributed.
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