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Novak Djokovic has broken his silence on his Australia visa fiasco, thanking people around the world for their support.
“Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,” the Serbian tennis number one wrote on Instagram on Friday.
It comes amid a furore over Covid-19 vaccine rules that has seen him being detained at a Melbourne hotel facing deportation ahead of this month’s Australian Open.
Djokovic has been detained since Thursday morning at an immigration facility in Melbourne after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured to enter the country.
He has appealed against the decision and must wait for a hearing on Monday to discover his fate.
Friday was Christmas in Serbia but Djokovic faces spending the weekend in Melbourne’s Park Hotel, which is used to house asylum seekers and refugees, before Monday’s hearing.
In Instagram and Twitter posts, Jelena Djokovic wrote: “Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband.
“I am taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude (and understanding) in this moment for all that is happening.
“The only law that we should all respect across every single border is Love and respect for another human being.
“Love and forgiveness is never a mistake but a powerful force. Wishing you all well!”
There was a small crowd outside the Park Hotel on Friday, where someone who gave her name only as Tatjana told the PA news agency the tennis player “doesn’t deserve to be in this refugee camp”.
“I'm here to support Novak, to set him free, because I think he doesn't deserve what the Australian government has done to him and it's not true when they said in the media that they treat everyone equally,” Tatjana said.
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has been a fierce critic of Djokovic on many matters, weighed in on Twitter to call for his country to “do better” in its treatment of the nine-time Australian Open champion.
The world number 93 wrote: “Look I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mums health, but how we are handling Novak's situation is bad, really bad.
“Like these memes, headlines, this is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better.”
Hours earlier, Djokovic’s father claimed the world number one has been made a scapegoat and “crucified” in the row.
“He met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won, since it's Novak, the best tennis player and sportsman in the world,” Srdjan Djokovic told a press conference on Thursday.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things, but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified... He will endure.”