Tennis star Novak Djokovic has spoken publicly for the first time about his visa cancellation saga during a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, describing the events as “unfortunate”.
Djokovic’s visa was cancelled after arriving at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airpot on Wednesday, January 5.
The 34-year-old was due to play the 2022 Australian Open, after being granted a medical exemption to compete despite being unvaccinated. Djokovic was told to leave the country on January 6. He left Australia after a last-ditch effort to have his visa cancellation overturned failed in Federal Court. Djokovic was seen at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport Sunday, January 16, flanked by Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers as he boarded Emirates flight to Dubai.
The top-ranking tennis star thanked the Serbian President for his support during the 11-day visa cancellation debacle.
“I wanted to meet with you today because, primarily as a citizen of Serbia, I felt a great need to thank you for the great support that you, as the president of Serbia, gave me, as well as all state institutions during the unfortunate events in Australia,” he said.
“Although I was alone in detention, and faced with many problems and challenges, I wasn’t feeling lonely.”
“I had huge support primarily from my family, all of the close people in my life, entire Serbian nation, many people with good intentions from the region and the world.”
He refrained from going into great detail about the event that took place but confirmed he would give his “version” in the coming days and urged fans to be “patient”.
“I haven’t spoken in public in regards to the events that happened in Australia, and this is the first time that I have come out in public,” he said.
President Vucic revealed he had urged Djokovic to leave Australia when he first heard he had been detained.
“And then I saw how persistent he is, how much he wanted to play, to fight on the sports field, to show on the sports field how much he is ready to fight not only for himself, but his country and show that he is better than others,” he said.
“Thank you for representing our country with honour, courage and in the best way, and for doing so in the future. Thank you for the great fight you fought in Australia.”
The meeting with the Serbian President comes shortly after Djokovic’s biographer revealed the tennis great had chosen to get the Covid-19 vaccine. According to author Daniel Muksch, Rafael Nadal’s win at the Australian Open spurred the decision.
“From what I have heard from those around him, I think he is getting vaccinated,” he told Austrian TV station Servus TV.
“Maybe the final in Melbourne also contributed to that.
“Rafael Nadal’s 21 is driving him, no question.”