Novak Djokovic’s father has launched a passionate defence of his son and has likened the tennis superstar’s treatment at the hands of the Australian authorities to the crucifixion of Jesus.
The 34-year-old Djokovic was granted a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination requirements to compete in the year’s first grand slam but after a public outcry he was detained by officials at the border on Thursday.
Djokovic is now in a quarantine hotel in Melbourne after his lawyers secured an agreement for him to stay in the country for a court hearing on Monday in which he hopes to overturn the federal government ban on his entry.
Whatever the outcome of that hearing, it is unlikely to do little to pacify Srdan Djokovic who has been outraged by the events which have dominated the build-up to the first major sporting event of the year.
Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference in Serbia on Thursday, he said: ‘Jesus was crucified and everything was done to him, and he endured, he is still alive among us.
‘They are trying to crucify Novak in the same way, to underestimate him, to throw him to his knees, to do everything to him.
‘My late grandmother Sara Jaukovic from Savnik always said ‘shame on you, girl, when you don’t have a face’.
‘Well, I’m telling them now, shame on you when you don’t have a cheek. To do the best athlete, tennis player in the world.’
Djokovic’s family later held a rally in front of Serbia’s parliament building in the city centre with around 300 of his fans, some draped in Serbian flags and chanting slogans in support of the player.
His father told the crowd that the protests would be held every day until his son was released.
Former mentor Niki Pilic, who oversaw Djokovic’s career as a teenager, told Reuters the situation was ‘farcical’, adding: ‘Politics have interfered with sports here as it so often does.”
The Australian Prime Minister was, he said: ‘Trying to please a part of the country’s society and improve his poor political rating.’
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