Tennis champion Novak Djokovic has appeared for the first time since his deportation from Australia. And it came with some reveals.
Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has promised to reveal his side of the story of the Australian Open drama after his first press appearance weeks after his deportation.
The 20-time men’s singles Grand Slam champion met with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic in front of a throng of press overnight, describing the “unfortunate events in Australia” which “was at least unexpected, as it happened,” he said with a smile.
Since his deportation Djokovic has spent the last two weeks in Belgrade, but also in Montenegro.
“This is the first time I go public,” he said.
Djokovic thanked the President for the support, along with the Serbian people after “these circumstances that found me in Australia”.
He said their support has shown “that this connection will be like that forever”.
He has promised to deliver his side of the story “in more detail”, but told President Vucic: “I wanted to see you first of all because as a citizen of Serbia I felt a great need to thank you for the great support you gave me as President of Serbia.
“Although I was alone in detention in Australia and faced many problems and challenges, I did not feel lonely.
“You stood up and stood behind me and put yourself in a compromised political position, within the framework of international relations, and that is why I am extremely grateful. I will remember that.”
President Vucic hailed Djokovic for “glorifying our country” despite admitting that when receiving the call from the tennis star to give the news of his detention, he urged him to leave the country.
“And then I saw how persistent he is, how much he wanted to play, to fight on the sports field, to show on the sports field how much he is ready to fight not only for himself, but his country and show that he is better than others,” Vucic explained.
Djokovic arrived in Melbourne in early January but was deported ahead of the Australian Open after the Federal Court upheld Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa.
The unvaccinated star and Tennis Australia believed the Serbian was eligible for a medical exemption to enter the country and compete, because he had been infected with Covid-19 in December.
A furious backlash erupted when news of Djokovic’s exemption was made public via an Instagram post and he was detained at Tullamarine Airport upon arrival, then subsequently spent time in hotel detention as his final legal challenge to stay in Australia fell through.
“For media representatives, I would like to add that since I did not advertise in public about the Australian events, this is the first time I go public,” Djokovic said overnight.
He urged, “please be patient”.
He said within the next 7-10 days he will address the situation “in more detail with my version of the story to everything that happened in Australia”.
Djokovic’s deportation meant he was unable to challenge for a 10th Australian Open crown and push ahead of Nadal and Roger Federer on the list of all-time men’s major winners.
The Big Three were level on 20 grand slams each at the start of the year before Nadal took the outright lead in Melbourne when he beat Medvedev in a thrilling five-set final.
President Vucic purred over Djokovic, telling the media “someone special and bigger than all of us is here today”.
“Thank you for representing our country with honour, courage and in the best way, and for doing so in the future. Thank you for the great fight you fought in Australia,” Vucic said.
A statement from the President’s office said “that the ladies were specially groomed, and all this shows that someone special and much bigger came.”
“It has never happened that we have so many people in the building, that all the secretaries, all bookkeepers, all cooks, janitors, came because they wanted to see Novak.
“He will beat them all, at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. I predict that.”