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Serbian president launches extraordinary attack on Australia over Novak Djokovic

The president of Serbia has lashed out at Australia after national hero Novak Djokovic lost his 11 day legal battle to stay and compete in the Australian Open.

The unvaccinated tennis star will likely fly home in a few hours, prompting his nation’s leader Aleksandar Vucic to accuse Scott Morrison of playing politics ahead of an upcoming election.

Mr Vucic accused Australian government lawyers of ‘lying’ during ‘pointless’ court proceedings when they stated less than half of Serbians were vaccinated. 

‘You saw in the pointless court proceeding how much the prosecution lied,’ he said.

‘They are simply lying. They say there are fewer than 50 per cent vaccinated people in Serbia and officially the number is 58 per cent.

Aleksandar Vucic (pictured on Sunday) has lashed out at Australia’s treatment of Novak Djokovic

The 20-time Grand Slam champion (pictured on Friday at Melbourne Park) will likely fly home in a few hours after losing his 11-day bid to stay in Australia on Sunday

The 20-time Grand Slam champion (pictured on Friday at Melbourne Park) will likely fly home in a few hours after losing his 11-day bid to stay in Australia on Sunday

‘Don’t forget that’s higher than in many European Union countries. That was a pointless argument, but that’s possible in Orwellian performances.’

Mr Vucic said Australian athletes would be treated better when they arrived in Serbia for an athletics event in March and ‘and we won’t mistreat them due to elections.’

The president said he had given Djokovic his full support and told him he ‘could not wait’ for the tennis star to return to Serbia where he was always welcome. 

‘To mistreat the best tennis player for 11 days, and on the 11th day hand him the decision made on the first day…’ he said, Serbian publication Novosti reports. 

‘Thank you to the Australian people as I am sure they love Serbs. They think they have humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eyes with his head held high.’ 

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic echoed the president’s sentiments when she said it was ‘unbelievable’ two different court decisions had been reached in 11 days. 

Ms Brnabic said over this time Djokovic had endured both ‘physical and psychological mistreatment’ and said she welcomed him home. 

It comes after Djokovic confirmed he will not compete in the Australian Open on Monday and was set to be deported, recently being seen at Melbourne Airport. 

Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan unanimously decided Djokovic did not have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s deportation order – meaning he could face a three-year ban from travelling to Australia again. 

He was spotted at the airport at 8.30pm on Sunday, less than three hours after the judges made the unanimous ruling, having left his detention hotel without detection ahead of a flight to Dubai with Emirates before midnight. 

'To mistreat the best tennis player for 11 days, and on the 11th day hand him the decision made on the first day…' President Vucic said, Serbian publication Novosti reports

‘To mistreat the best tennis player for 11 days, and on the 11th day hand him the decision made on the first day…’ President Vucic said, Serbian publication Novosti reports

Aleksandar Vucic said he had given Djokovic (pictured) his full support and told him he 'could not wait' for the tennis star to return to Serbia where he was always welcome

Aleksandar Vucic said he had given Djokovic (pictured) his full support and told him he ‘could not wait’ for the tennis star to return to Serbia where he was always welcome

Stephen Lloyd, for the Minister, on Sunday noted vaccination rates in Djokovic’s home country of Serbia were significantly lower than in Australia, indicating the tennis star was a ‘talisman’ of anti-vax sentiment.

Mr Lloyd argued this demonstrated the Minister’s belief that Djokovic could be seen to influence his fans based on his own perceived stance on vaccines and ‘may foster anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia’. 

Djokovic’s high-powered legal team, led by Nick Wood SC, took issue with Mr Hawke’s reasoning for cancelling the visa, which was primarily a result of his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid.

They rebuffed statements Djokovic has ‘a well-known stance on vaccination’.

Mr Wood argued comments the tennis star made about vaccines in April 2020 which have been used to justify the Minister’s decision are not necessarily relevant. 

They say Djokovic insisted he was ‘not an expert’ and would do what was best for his body, after indicating he wouldn’t want to be ‘forced’ to take a Covid vaccine well before a jab to protect against the virus had even been developed. 

Mr Lloyd also cited Djokovic’s history of breaching public health orders.

By his own admission, Djokovic failed to heed the advice of his own government after testing positive to Covid, meeting with a journalist and posing for a photo without his mask just days after returning a positive test.

‘The applicant has a history of ignoring safety measures,’ Mr Lloyd said. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the decision to cancel Djokovic's visa, stating the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds in a statement on Sunday night

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, stating the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds in a statement on Sunday night

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa and stated the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds.

‘I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe,’ Mr Morrison said in a statement on Sunday night.

‘As I said on Friday, Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.

‘Over the pandemic, together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world.

‘Strong borders are fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law.

‘Our Government has always understood this and has been prepared to take the decisions and actions necessary to protect the integrity of our borders.’

The prime minister thanked the Federal Court for their quick decision-making and for having patience as the issue was resolved.

‘It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer,’ Mr Morrison said. 

Djokovic (pictured) confirmed the news shortly after it was announced his visa would be revoked, just before 6pm on Sunday

Djokovic (pictured) confirmed the news shortly after it was announced his visa would be revoked, just before 6pm on Sunday

The 20-time Grand Slam champion soon released a statement saying he was ‘extremely disappointed in the court’s ruling’, after losing his last ditch attempt to stay and compete Down Under. 

‘I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,’ his statement read.

‘I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.

‘I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. 

‘Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support,’ the player concluded.

‘You have all been a great source of strength to me.’

Justice Allsop earlier said he accepted Djokovic could be seen as ‘an iconic sports star that is setting an example that is not ideal to be followed’.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion (pictured) soon released a statement saying he was 'extremely disappointed in the court's ruling

The 20-time Grand Slam champion (pictured) soon released a statement saying he was ‘extremely disappointed in the court’s ruling

‘If Mr Djokovic won the Open, as he has in the past, there is an example embedded in the Minister’s reasoning that this is an example for young and not so young fans of tennis.’

The government did not indicate whether they would take up the option to prevent Djokovic from applying for a visa to enter Australia for the next three years. 

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke welcomed the Federal Court’s decision to unanimously reject the player’s attempts to overturn his revoked visa.

‘I welcome today’s unanimous decision by the Full Federal Court of Australia, upholding my decision to exercise my power under the Migration Act to cancel Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa in the public interest,’ Mr Hawke said in a statement.  

The outcome of the hearing is also bad news for Tennis Australia, who have had to swiftly rejig the competition draw within hours to accommodate for one less player.

Lucky Loser Salvatore Caruso from Italy – who last week was beaten in the semifinals of a tournament in Bendigo – will take Djokovic’s spot in the draw.


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