The treatment of Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open has not gone down well with Serbians, who are fierce in their loyalty to the star.
The situation surrounding Novak Djokovic and his Australian Open participation escalated very quickly. The Serbian had claimed he got a medical exemption from being vaccinated and would thus be part of the season-opening Grand Slam.
But by the time he arrived in Australia, things were very different. His visa was cancelled by the federal government, because it did not include the right to an exemption.
And now, the Serbian star faces the prospect of being deported and missing the Grand Slam which he’s won multiple times.
He has challenged the call in court so will remain in the country until at least Monday; that is when his hearing will take place. But it is an absurd situation either way, and not one most foresaw taking place.
And, as expected, support for the Serb star has been unconditional to this point. From celebreties to politicians, almost everyone has had a say in the matter.
Serbian film-maker Emir Kusturica wrote an op-ed where he said this treatment was ‘a lesson’ to everyone; not just the tennis player who is noted for his distrust of vaccines.
He said the “arrest of Novak Djokovic, first among the free, a rebel who does not want the chains of the new world and believes in a more just order” was like a movie plot.
“Hasn’t the world already become a prison of which barbed wire is the most expressive symbol?” Kusturica asked. “Aren’t the punishments for those who refuse to be jabbed just another step by the world government?”
The players’ family went one step further, comparing him to Jesus Christ. They also called for a mass protest on Friday (January 6), which is when orthodox Christians in Serbia celebrate Christmas.
“The family of Novak Djokovic calls on all fans and supporters of the best tennis player in the world, who is in a delicate situation, in front of the Belgrade city assembly,” the family said.
“The biggest Christian holiday is an opportunity to show the significance of the community; to send support from Belgrade, and to show how much support the best tennis player in the world has in its own country.”
Yet despite the protest, it is not clear if much will change – if anything at all does. The Serb will need the court to rule in his favour so as to play the Grand Slam.
Whether that happens is unclear at this point, simply because it is clear the tennis player is in contravention of rules. Still, stranger things have happened in the past.