Novak Djokovic remains under the very real threat of being kicked out of Australia, where the government is guilty of treating the world number one appallingly, the Serbian star’s uncle has told RT.
Djokovic was released from detention on Monday after a Melbourne judge ruled that the Australian authorities had behaved “unreasonably” when canceling his visa upon arrival last week.
However, Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, has reserved the right to intervene personally to deport the 20-time Grand Slam winner in a dispute over his right to enter the country with a COVID vaccine exemption.
As Djokovic’s immediate future remains uncertain, his uncle, Goran, was scathing in his assessment of the behavior of the Australian authorities – but clarified that contrary to some reports, his nephew had not been detained again following the court decision.
“Right now we have information that Novak is not arrested. He’s on the way to [the tennis] court to start to practice, this is the last information we have. But there’s still the threat of arrest,” Goran told RT.
“I spoke with him early this morning after he won the case at court. Immediately, they started threatening that he could be arrested again.
“Novak is feeling good, it was many problems, as you know, he was arrested. He was invited with a regular visa, he didn’t break any rules.
“Unfortunately the (Australian Open) tournament director didn’t do his job, and the guys from the authorities failed.
“This is something like a horror for our family, that’s why they are protesting every day in front of the national parliament (in Belgrade).”
Djokovic’s case for his medical exemption rests on his recovery from a COVID infection in December, which medical panels used by Tennis Australia and Victoria state officials had deemed sufficient for him to play at the Australian Open later this month.
However, federal officials said it was not enough for Djokovic to be granted entry into the country as a non-resident who has not been fully vaccinated.
Goran Djokovic said his nephew was not a threat to anyone and was a firm advocate of freedom of choice regarding vaccination.
“This is his personal choice (not to get vaccinated). Personally I’m vaccinated, but this is about him,” Goran said to RT on air.
“On the other side, he had coronavirus in December… he’s had coronavirus twice, he has antibodies in his blood. But this is his choice, a personal choice, maybe in the future, but for now he’s not vaccinated.”
Djokovic’s treatment at the hands of the Australian authorities has come under scrutiny after Melbourne judge Anthony Kelly deemed that the tennis icon had not been given sufficient time to seek advice after being notified that his visa was being canceled last week.
The 34-year-old star was housed at an infamous immigration detention hotel in Melbourne where conditions have widely been criticized.
“This is like a nightmare for us, for him. In the beginning they took the phone and all the stuff,” added Goran Djokovic, who is also vice-president of the Serbian Tennis Federation.
“The last two days he didn’t even have a proper breakfast. He’s supposed to eat no-gluten food, but they brought him food with gluten, things like that.
“We are very unhappy, we’re so sorry, we like the Australian people, but the Australian government did very wrong things to Novak, one of the best sportsmen ever, this is very sad.
“I don’t why they are doing that, using Novak like an example, I don’t know, I still can’t understand.
“If they don’t want him in Australia, they didn’t have to give him a visa, OK, he wouldn’t be there.
“He’s like an animal in a trap, like a wolf in the mountain, it’s unbelievable what the people from the government are doing to him.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been firm in his backing of the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, but has been accused by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of conducting a “political witch hunt” against the tennis star.
Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, has also decried the treatment of his son, asserting that he has been “crucified” and the rights of Serbian people “trampled on”.
Monday’s court ruling exposed an apparent lack of coherence regarding border policies and cooperation with tennis bosses and officials at a state level, in what was an embarrassing defeat for the government.
Throughout his detention and court case, Djokovic has been backed by protests in his homeland and fans taking to the streets in Melbourne.
When asked whether he thought the actions against his nephew were political, Goran Djokovic said that was a possibility.
“This is interesting, the judge made the verdict on Novak’s side, the lawyer from the government is threatening directly in front of the judge that the immigration minister can overrule the verdict. This is so crazy. I really don’t expect that, but this is possible,” he said.
Australian Immigration Minister Hawke said that the issue of Djokovic’s deportation was still being considered but a decision would not be made earlier than Tuesday.
That still leaves significant doubt as to whether Djokovic will be among the competitors for the Australian Open, which begins on January 17 and where he will be looking to win a fourth consecutive title and a record 10th crown overall.
“For sure it won’t be easier for him, but he will test his body and decide his body,” Goran Djokovic said of the Serbian star’s participation.
“This is not fair, a tournament or Grand Slam without Novak is not the same. This is not a Grand Slam. What they do right now, they don’t deserve to have a Grand Slam anymore, this is what I think.”
There have been reports that should Djokovic be deported, he could face a three-year ban from Australia – although that will remain at the discretion of officials.
If that worst-case scenario plays out, Goran says his relative may never play in the country again.
“For sure (the support from fans) has helped him. He’s facing now the penalty to be banned for three years to come to Australia.
“They didn’t stay straight they he will get a three-year ban if he leaves by himself, which means forever he’ll be banned to play tennis in Australia.
“Now, everything is still going, this is like a horror, it’s still happening, we don’t know what to do. It’s terrible.”
Despite his inauspicious start to the year, Djokovic was backed to bounce back by his uncle – if not in Australia, then at one of the remaining three Grand Slams of the year.
The Serbian ace is bidding to win a record 21st Grand Slam overall, which would move him ahead of great rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“He will for sure win one of the Grand Slams this year, I think,” Goran said.
“He’s in good health, he’s not a threat to anybody in the public health. For sure, he’s one of the healthiest athletes in the world. He’s fine, he’s doing his job, which is to play tennis.
“I don’t understand Australian politicians, why they don’t want him to play tennis.”