On Sunday, the family of tennis star Novak Djokovic and Serbia’s top leaders criticized the sports icon’s deportation from Australia, saying the ruling was “scandalous.”
The day before, a three-judge panel overruled Djokovic’s visa appeal, barring him from the Australian Open and squashing his chances of winning his 21st Grand Slam title. The ranked no. 1 player had his visa canceled over concerns from the Australian government that he could pose a health risk and encourage anti-vax groups.
“We are very disappointed by a federal court ruling and the fact that Novak has to leave Australia,” Djokovic’s family said in a statement reported by Serbian media.
“Despite the scandalous behavior towards Novak, we believed that sport would win,” the statement read.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić voiced a stronger opinion when speaking to reporters in Belgrade. “I find it unbelievable that we have two completely contradictory court decisions within the span of just a few days,” she said, per The Guardian, also calling Australia’s decision “scandalous.”
As Reuters reported, Brnabić also said: “I am disappointed… I think it demonstrated how the rule of law is functioning, or better to say not functioning, in some other countries.”
The country’s sports minister, Vanja Udovicic took to Twitter to heap praise on the Djokovic, calling him “the best in the world ever, someone who writes the history of the planet in sports.”
“That is and will be forever Novak Djokovic!” he wrote. “Everything else is nonsense and shame, absurdity, and a display of hypocrisy! Legend, Pride of Serbia, We are with you!”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić blasted Australia’s decision, calling Djokovic’s hearing a “farce with a lot of lies,” ESPN reported.
“They think that they humiliated Djokovic with this 10-day harassment, and they actually humiliated themselves. If you said that the one who was not vaccinated has no right to enter, Novak would not come or would be vaccinated,” Vučić said, per ESPN.
Djokovic himself said he was “extremely disappointed” with the Australian court’s ruling, but said he would respect its decision and leave the country. He flew on Sunday from Melbourne Airport and landed in Dubai en route to Serbia.
Back in his home country, the Belgrade Tower lit up with a message in support of Djokovic, displaying his nickname “Nole” with Serbia’s national colors.