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- Serbian tennis player
The mother of Novak Djokovic said the tennis player was "subjected to torture" before winning his appeal to remain in Australia.
The world number one men's tennis player won an appeal in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia on Monday against the decision to refuse him a visa ahead of the Australian Open tournament.
In a press conference given by his family in Belgrade, Serbia, his mother Dijana said: “He has done nothing wrong, he was subjected to torture, harassment.
“Never before have we faced a situation like this. This was extremely difficult for us.
“We had no idea whether he was ill or whether he had eaten. Justice has prevailed today. This is the biggest win of his career. It is bigger than any of the grand slams he has won."
His father Srdjan said Djokovic had his “human rights taken away” and claimed his son was not allowed to contact his friends, his team or his lawyers.
In a tweet published during the press conference, Djokovic broke his silence over the legal battle and said: “I’m pleased and grateful that the judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen.
“I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.
“For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong.”
His tweet contained an image of Djokovic back on a tennis court at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, home of the Australian Open.
His brother Djordje said the tennis player had been back on a court and trained "a few moments ago".
When his family were asked what Djokovic had been doing the day after his positive PCR test, following reports he had attended a PR event, they ended the press conference.
Watch: Djokovic’s mother blasts Australian government for 'torture' of her son
Judge Anthony Kelly quashed the cancellation of Djokovic's visa and ordered the Australian government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half an hour.
Supporters of Djokovic celebrated the ruling outside the court in Melbourne.
However, he still faces the prospect of deportation, with Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke considering whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation of Djokovic’s visa, although a decision is reportedly unlikely on Monday.
The 34-year-old tennis player arrived in Melbourne last week with a medical exemption to defend his Australian Open title.
The court released a transcript of Djokovic’s interview with Australian Border Force last week, during which the Serb confirmed he has had COVID-19 twice and is not vaccinated.
Djokovic was removed from the government detention hotel where he had been staying to be with his lawyers during the hearing, and Judge Anthony Kelly expressed agitation over the rejection of Djokovic’s medical exemption.
Judge Kelly asked the court, “What more could this man have done?”
The judge said: “Here, a professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption.
“Further to that, that medical exemption and the basis on which it was given was separately given by a further independent expert specialist panel established by the Victorian state government and that document was in the hands of the delegate.”
Djokovic’s lawyer, Nicholas Wood, argued the notice of intention to cancel his visa was defective because it was made on “a confusing blend of two grounds”.
He also argued that Djokovic was treated at the airport as if access to lawyers “couldn’t possibly” be of assistance in the matter and was not given a reasonable chance to respond to the notice.
It was revealed in court documents submitted by Djokovic’s lawyers that the player had been infected with COVID-19 in December 2021. The documents said the infection was the basis of Djokovic’s medical exemption for the Australian Open.
The documents also noted that Djokovic expressed “shock”, “surprise, and “confusion” when he was notified of his visa cancellation “given that (as he understood it) he had done everything he was required to enter Australia”.
In the transcript of his interview with Australian Border Force, when asked why he was travelling to Australia, Djokovic said: “I’m a professional tennis player and the main reason for me coming to Australia is participating in the Australian Open in Melbourne Victoria.”
In response to a question about his vaccination status, he said: “I am not vaccinated.”
When asked if he had ever had COVID-19, Djokovic replied: “I had COVID twice, I had COVID in June 2020 and I had COVID recently in – I was tested positive – PCR – 16th December 2021.”
Politician and pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage had earlier tweeted from Belgrade with the Djokovic family showing his support for the Serb, prompting a response from two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
“Please record the awkward moment when you tell them you’ve spent most of your career campaigning to have people from Eastern Europe deported,” tweeted the Scot.
After the decision, Farage tweeted again saying the Australian Government would “look dreadful” if it cancelled Djokovic’s visa a second time.
Watch: Australian lawyer believes Novak Djokovic's visa woes are over after ruling