Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has hit out at the treatment of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic by Australian authorities, likening it to torture.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner left Australia on Sunday after a last-ditch visa appeal was rejected. The Serbian world No. 1 had hoped to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open at Melbourne Park, but has been deported from the country after a row over medical exemptions.
The 34-year-old initially had his visa cancelled for failing to meet the requirement for a medical exemption but that decision was overturned. However, Australia’s immigration minister Hawke, re-cancelled the visa "on health and good order grounds”. Another appeal was lodged, but rejected.
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The fallout looks to run for some time and Serbia’s president has entered the debate.
"Of course, all of us in Serbia are very much disappointed with the court's ruling in Australia,” began Aleksandar Vucic.
“We believe that it was more political than a decision made by the Australian judiciary.
“Anyway, it [would have been] very easy for the Australian authorities to say from the very beginning that OK, only vaccinated, only inoculated people could enter Australian territory, but they didn't say so.
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"They were saying a completely different story, including these medical exemptions. And after that, they forgot about it, and they wanted to create alleged political principles, which were not principles at all.
"And then for 10 days they were tormenting - dare to say even torturing because it was not only intellectual, but physical torture - against Novak Djokovic.
"And there was something else which was even worse, that was a witch hunt organised against Djokovic – a guy, just not to forget it, who won nine times the Australian Open title and that was totally unnecessary. "
Djokovic’s pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title will have to wait until the French Open at Roland Garros. Djokovic should be able to compete at the French Open regardless of his vaccination status, the country’s sports minister Roxana Maracineanu has confirmed.
However, that is Djokovic’s weakest Grand Slam having won two of his 20 there and doubts persist whether he will run into immigration issues ahead of Wimbledon and the US Open.
He currently sits on 20 major titles alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
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