Novak Djokovic’s parents have joined a protest rally in the Serbian capital Belgrade as the tennis star awaits a court hearing which could decide whether he can play at the Australian Open.
The virtual hearing in Melbourne, with Djokovic appealing against his visa cancellation, comes amid a growing public debate over a positive coronavirus test that his lawyers used as grounds in applying for a medical exemption to Australia’s strict vaccination rules.
The top-ranked Serb, who hopes to defend his title at the Australian Open and win a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title, was denied entry when he arrived at Melbourne’s airport on Wednesday.
The court hearing will take place at 10am local time on Monday (2300 GMT) in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
The case has polarised opinion around the world and elicited heartfelt support for the tennis star in his native Serbia.
“Today is a big day. Today, the whole world will hear the truth,” Djokovic’s mother Dijana Djokovic told the crowd in Belgrade.
“We hope that Novak will come out as a free man. We send great love to Novak. We believe in him, but also in the independent judiciary in Melbourne,” she said.
Djokovic’s father Srdjan Djokovic said “this is happening because we are only a small part of the world, but we are proud people”.
He added: “They can’t break us. Novak is the personification of freedom, everything human that one man contains in himself. Shame on them!”
“He doesn’t even have breakfast,” she said. “He has a wall to stare at and he can’t even see a park in front or go out of the room.”
Australian officials initially said Djokovic, a vocal sceptic of vaccines who has refused to say if he has got the Covid-19 shot, would be given an exemption to stringent vaccine rules by state authorities and be able to participate in the Australian Open.
But when he landed, his visa was cancelled by federal border officials.
The exemption request said Djokovic’s first positive test was on December 16 and, on the date of issue, it said the 34-year-old player “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours”.
Social media is swamped with questions over Djokovic’s whereabouts after the alleged positive Covid-19 test amid a surge of the pandemic.
Djokovic attended two public events on December 16 in Belgrade, as well as a December 17 event in the Serbian capital honouring young tennis players.
The event was covered by local media, and parents posted photos on social media showing Djokovic and the children not wearing masks. It is not clear if Djokovic knew the results of his test at the time.
Days later he was shown playing tennis in a park in front of his apartment in Belgrade.
“Legally, Djokovic doesn’t have to explain what happened (after his positive test) but it would be very good for his reputation here and the whole world,” Sasa Ozmo, a Serbian sports journalist, told the N1 television.