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15 Jan, 2022 18:05

WATCH: Djokovic fans protest outside Australian Open

Supporters took to the home of the tournament after their hero had his visa canceled again over his Covid vaccination status

Novak Djokovic backers have performed their latest lively demonstration outside the Rod Laver Arena home of the first Grand Slam of 2022 after the Australian government denied the tennis superstar permission to remain again.

Hugely popular Djokovic is being detained for a second time and will discover whether he will be allowed to play at the tournament in a federal court hearing on Sunday in Australia.

Fans mounted a noisy and colorful parade in the embattled champion's honor outside the hotel where he was initially held following his arrival in Australia, when he was grilled by border force officials for hours in exchanges that were laid bare in court documents released for his first hearing on Monday.

The world number one was released but has now had his right to be in the country outlawed once more in a decision he will contest hours before his title defense is due to start.

With Djokovic facing the prospect of being ordered to leave Australia by leaders who see him as a threat to public health because he has not been vaccinated against Covid, demonstrators have again shown their devotion to the 20-time Grand Slam title winner.

Footage from outside the arena shows a gathering of people, some of whom are waving flag and banging drums.

One woman can be seen wearing a hat reading 'free Julian' – a possible reference to imprisoned WikiLeaks overlord Julian Assange – while imploring judges to "free Novak" through a loudspeaker.

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his political powers to cancel Djokovic's visa on the grounds of "health and good order."

The move has been received predictably badly in Djokovic's home city of Belgrade, where his family, including father Srdjan and mother Dijana, have voiced their anger at Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison over what they believe is a decision motivated purely by politics rather than justice.

"It's a pity they are harassing him so much," rued Miroljub, a resident of Belgrade who evidently sympathizes with Djokovic's argument that he was told he would be given a medical exemption to enter without being vaccinated because he tested positive for Covid in December 2021.

"He is the number one in the world. We'll see what happens. I disagree with [the decision]."

Not all Serbians feel similarly. "I heard he made a fraud of some sort," said another resident, Miroslav.

"If he really did it, then he should be deported – it doesn't matter that he is number one in the world and that he won nine times trophy there."

Djokovic's compatriot is likely to have been referencing the news that Djokovic made a mistake on his travel declaration form to enter Australia.

The 34-year-old has also been castigated for appearing to conduct an interview with a journalist after he knew he had tested positive.

“I felt obligated to go ahead ... but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken," the superstar said in a statement after the development materialized.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment.”

The top seed in Melbourne blamed "human error" by his support team over the documentation debacle, which said he had not traveled in the 14 days before he flew to Australia even though he had been seen in Spain during that period.

Djokovic insisted the error was "certainly not deliberate.” The Australian Open runs from January 17-30 2022.

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