Novak Djokovic’s parents join Belgrade protest against tennis star’s detention

Novak Djokovic’s parents have joined a protest rally in the Serbian capital Belgrade as the tennis star awaits a court hearing that could decide whether he can play at the Australian Open.

The virtual hearing in Melbourne, with Djokovic appealing against the cancellation of his visa, comes amid growing public debate over a positive coronavirus test that his lawyers have used as grounds for applying for a medical exemption to Australia’s strict vaccination rules. used in.

The top-ranked Serb, who hopes to defend his title at the Australian Open and win a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title, was denied entry when he arrived at Melbourne’s airport on Wednesday.

The court hearing will take place at 10 a.m. local time on Monday (2300 GMT) at the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Australia.

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Supporters of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic protest in Belgrade (Darko Vojnovi / AP)

The Australian Open will begin on January 17 – just a week from Djokovic’s court date.

The case has polarized views around the world and garnered heartfelt support for the tennis star in her native Serbia.

“Today is a big day. Today the whole world will hear the truth,” Djokovic’s mother, Dijana Djokovic, told the crowd in Belgrade.

“We hope Nowak will come out as a free man. We send a lot of love to Novak. We believe in him, but also in the independent judiciary in Melbourne,” she said.

“It’s happening because we are a small part of the world, but we are proud,” said Djokovic’s father, Sarjan Djokovic.

He added: “They can’t break us. Nowak is the personification of freedom, all that man contains in himself. shame on them! ,

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A woman holds a picture of Novak Djokovic, ‘Victory!’ is studying (Darko Vojinovich / AP)

Mrs Djokovic said the situation at the Melbourne hotel where Djokovic is staying is “not human”.

“He doesn’t even eat breakfast,” she said. “He has a wall to look at and can’t even see a park in front or leave the room.”

Australian officials initially said that Djokovic, an outspoken skeptic of vaccines, who declined to say whether he had received the Covid-19 shot, would be exempted from stringent vaccine regulations by state authorities and would be able to attend the Australian Open. will be able to participate.

But when they landed, federal border officials revoked their visas.

The waiver request stated that Djokovic’s first positive test was on 16 December and as of the date of release, it was stated that the 34-year-old had “no fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours”.

Social media has been abuzz with questions about Djokovic’s whereabouts after he tested positive for COVID-19 amid the escalation of the pandemic.

Djokovic attended two public events in Belgrade on 16 December, as well as an event honoring young tennis players in the Serbian capital on 17 December.

The incident was covered by local media and parents posted pictures on social media showing Djokovic and the children not wearing masks. It is unclear whether Djokovic knew the results of his test at the time.

A few days later he was shown playing tennis in a park in front of his apartment in Belgrade.

“Legally, Djokovic doesn’t have to explain what happened (after his positive test) but it would be great for his reputation here and all over the world,” Serbian sports journalist Sasa Ozmo told N1 television.