NOVAK DJOKOVIC has returned to Serbia after being deported from Australia for failing to defend his Australian Open title.
With the arrival of the top player in Belgrade this afternoon, the first chapter of a dizzying storey that has resonances in elite sports, Australian pandemic politics and divided discussion over coronavirus vaccines has been closed.
Many of his Serbian admirers believe he was unfairly handled in Australia, but only a few fans waving the Serbian flag greeted him at the Belgrade airport.
At the same time, doubts grew over the player’s future. France’s new vaccination mandate has no exceptions, officials say.
Much may happen between now and the start of the French Open in late May.
Djokovic had contended that he was exempt from strict Australian immunisation regulations since he had recently recovered from Covid-19.
But when he landed in Australia, the authorities stated the exemption was invalid.
He was eventually deported for public safety reasons, citing the risk of inciting anti-vaccine sentiment.
A French parliamentarian added a new touch as he returned from Australia.
A new legislation preventing unvaccinated people from entering sporting arenas, restaurants, and other public areas will apply to anybody playing in the French Open, according to Christophe Castaner.
The French sports ministry announced today that once the new regulation is in effect, no exceptions would be made.
For now, Djokovic will be warmly welcomed back home after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star and asked him to return.
“God bless you Novak,” read one of the fans’ banners as he was escorted through passport check and customs by his brother Djordje to his Belgrade flat.
On Sunday, Djokovic was deported after a judicial struggle over whether he had a legitimate vaccine exemption to compete in the Australian Open.
Vaccination is required for everyone attending the Australian Open, which began today in Melbourne.
As a result of the epidemic, Australia has implemented city-wide lockdowns and restrictions on overseas travel to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
While Djokovic tested positive on December 16, he says he learned of the result on December 17 and cancelled all commitments except an interview with L’Equipe the following day.
He later called it a “mistake”.
When asked if Djokovic would be punished for breaching his isolation while diseased, Serbian officials responded no, because the country is not in an emergency.
Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president termed the Australian court hearing “a spectacle full of lies”.
“Welcome home, Novak, we all support you here,” said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident.
who is increasingly being hailed as a vaccine hero.