Belgrade, Jan 17 (EFE).- Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic on Monday arrived at Belgrade airport after being deported from Australia and losing his bid to defend his title at the Australian Open tournament.
The world No. 1 was expelled within hours of losing a battle in Australian courts against the second cancellation of his Australian visa.
The 34-year-old, considered a national hero in Serbia, arrived in Belgrade just after midday on a flight from Dubai, where he stopped on a layover from Australia, the local Tanjug news agency said.
He managed to avoid journalists by taking an alternative route to exit the airport and was not expected to give any statements until after the Australian Open finishes on January 30, local media reported.
Djokovic’s Australian journey, which became a media and political circus, began on January 5 when the tennis player traveled to Melbourne with a medical exemption to participate in the Australian Open without being vaccinated, having recently been infected with Covid-19.
Upon arrival, immigration authorities canceled his visa and detained him until his release on January 10 by a court order, which considered he was treated unfairly.
He was arrested again on Saturday after Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke used his special powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa for reasons of health and maintenance of order, claiming his stay in the country could encourage the anti-vaxxers’ movement against Covid-19.
The decision to deport Djokovic was taken unanimously by a three-judge bench of the Federal Court, which conducted a virtual hearing of the appeal filed by the defense team of Djokovic, who was put in a Melbourne hotel used as a detention center for immigrants.
While as per the law Djokovic also faces an entry ban to Australia for three years, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that the Serbian tennis player could return to the country if “the right circumstances” are met.
“It is a three-year period, but there is an opportunity for them to return in the right circumstances and that would be considered in due course,” Morrison told local station 2GB on Monday, adding that foreigners entering Australia must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or have a valid medical exemption.
The expulsion caused outrage in Djokovic’s native Serbia, which called it a “scandalous,” “witch hunt,” “Orwellian” style show and a “farce.”
Djokovic was looking to scoop a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
His quest for the record could be further complicated by the fact France on Monday warned he would need to be vaccinated in order to compete in the French Open. EFE