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Men’s tennis Serbia president tells Novak Djokovic to ’return to his country’ after losing Australian visa battle

Serbia’s president called on Novak Djokovic to return to his native country hours after the top-ranked tennis player lost his court battle to play at the Australian Open yesterday and faced deportation.

It was not immediately clear where Djokovic would go after saying he was “disappointed” with losing his appeal against deportation and adding that he needs “some time to rest and to recuperate” after the 11-day saga.

Djokovic released a statement shortly after three Australian Federal Court judges unanimously upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds because he is not vaccinated for Covid-19.

Djokovic’s visa was initially cancelled on January 6 by a border official who decided he didn’t qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors. Djokovic was initially exempted from the tournament’s vaccine rules because he had been infected with the virus within the previous six months.

In addition to his native Serbia, where he has an almost iconic status and overwhelming support, Djokovic could go to Marbella, Spain or Monaco where he has residences and where he has spent most of his time away from tennis.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australian authorities of “harassing” Djokovic and called the court ruling “a farce.”

He said he had spoken to Djokovic that morning and told him “we can’t wait to see him in Serbia, to return to his country, to come where he is always welcome.

“They think they humiliated Djokovic with this, the best player in the world, by the 10-day harassment, they humiliated themselves and Djokovic can return to his country with his head high up and look everyone in the eye,” Vucic said.

He did not say whether Djokovic confirmed he would go to Serbia after his deportation.

Andy Murray weighed in on Djokovic’s deportation from Australia, labelling the situation “a shitshow.”

Giving his reaction, Murray told the BBC: “Novak is someone I have known since we were 12 years old, he is someone who I respect and have competed against. I don’t like [that] he is in this situation and I don’t like [that] he has been in detention.

“The situation has not been good all round for anyone. Hopefully, from all sides, from the tournament and from Novak, we can make sure this doesn’t happen at any other tournaments and that something is in place ahead of time.

“It feels everything here happened extremely last minute and that’s why it became such a shitshow.”

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