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10 Jan, 2022 07:42

Fans & players react to ‘utter madness’ of Djokovic drama

Supporters, critics and fellow players have spoken out after the controversial star won his appeal against deportation
Fans & players react to ‘utter madness’ of Djokovic drama

The fiery debate around Novak Djokovic's controversial bid to end his visa nightmare and play at the Australian Open has continued, with his fellow tennis professionals and fans reacting to his courtroom drama in Melbourne.

World number one Djokovic has been the unwitting subject of a media storm since his botched attempt to enter Australia ahead of the Grand Slam, enduring fierce support and criticism while he was detained in a hotel ahead of a court ruling on whether he could stay in the country on Monday.

There have been colorful protests on the streets of Belgrade and outside Djokovic's hotel, with the 34-year-old's family leading the calls for Djokovic to be freed amid an escalating diplomatic row and accusations that tournament organizers Tennis Australia and the Australian government are to blame.

After the ruling ordered Djokovic to be released, former Davis Cup winner Ivo Karlovic responded "idemo, Nole" – the Serbian expression meaning "here we go" alongside the tennis icon's nickname.

British star Liam Broady imagined Djokovic's lawyers, who have initially successfully pleaded that Djokovic was unfairly refused entry because he had been told he would be exempt from vaccination rules, vowing to free him from prison.

Some reports have claimed that Djokovic was kept in accommodation akin to a jail, although the Serbian government said it had reached an agreement allowing him to receive gluten-free food.

Six-time Australian Open competitor Jamie Hampton seemed somewhat confused. "So what I'm gathering is that the parties came to an agreement because of the timing of the visa cancellation," the former world number 24 said, attempting to make sense of proceedings as Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke threatened to cancel Djokovic's visa regardless.

"And if or when the minister revokes it again, then Djokovic's counsel can't make the same argument? Is that correct?"

Former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski told Good Morning Britain that Djokovic "had a point to prove" as details emerged that the nine-time Australian Open winner was pressured to make a decision about his visa while he was sleep-deprived after a 25-hour journey to Melbourne.

"They made an exemption rule – there is no question about that," Rusedski said of the stipulation that players would be able to compete without being vaccinated against the coronavirus if they had tested positive for Covid during the past six months.

"He won his legal battle so he has every right to defend his [Australian Open] title. It is great for the event that he will be there."

Djokovic's mother, Dijana, has predicted that he will be even more motivated to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam in the increasing likelihood that he will play at the showpiece.

He is likely to face a frosty reception, though, from Australians who have almost unanimously adhered with some of the strictest lockdown and vaccination rules in the world.

That was evident on social media, where one of his critics even said that they hoped fans would throw rotten eggs at Djokovic.

"The Djokovic hearing shows just how badly the Aussie government handled their own laws," said one viewer.

"Either way, he has alienated many, many people and will face huge opposition if he plays. It's a massive slap in the face for everyone who was affected by Australia's laws."

In scenes similar to the ones outside Djokovic's hotel recent days, supporters in Serbian flags were seen cheering and dancing outside the courtroom in Melbourne.

"He'll manage the fans and the people being against him," said ex-British number one Rusedski.

Djokovic's brother Djordje, who has been outspoken on the case alongside Dijana and father Srdjan, was quoted by Serbian media to have described his sibling as "fine" shortly before the ruling.

"We are in touch regularly," he said. "He is impressed with the support from all parts of the world.

"He heard the supporters in Melbourne – it gives him strength. He didn’t break any laws, he received all the necessary documentation."

The hearing had a heated ending when the Australian government appeared to say that it could still use special powers to cancel Djokovic's visa, leading some to describe the situation as "crazy", "utter madness" and a saga that has not ended yet.

"Expect the embittered Australian government to appeal and use every power they can to stand against this," warned Martin Daubney, the deputy of the Reclaim Party which is led by actor and political activist Laurence Fox.

Some insisted that it will be unfair if Djokovic is allowed to play unvaccinated while punters are not allowed to watch games at the tournament without having vaccine shots.

Even Djokovic doubters seemed unimpressed with Australia's leadership. "Alex Hawke has said that he will use his powers to cancel the visa," seethed one.

"I'm no Djokovic fan but this is disgusting. Petulant children, throwing the toys out of the cot – or, rather, Djokovic out of the country."

Another said: "Just another manifestation of a government that has no respect for the rule of law and which politicizes everything it can... the trouble with accepting a corrupt administrative process is that it's only a matter of time before it affects one personally."

Djokovic will now be the Australian Open favorite as he chases a fourth successive triumph at the tournament, which runs from January 17-30 2022.

"Only thing left to do is win the trophy again and leave town never to return," said world number 24 John Isner, comparing Djokovic to legendary wrestler CM Punk.

A fan added: "I hope he is so mad at his treatment that he whitewashes the tournament. The Australian government are a global laughing stock."