In his first public comments since he arrived home in Serbia men’s tennis world number one Novak Djokovic says he will tell his “version of the story” of his deportation from Australia last month.
Djokovic, who was unvaccinated, was unable to defend his Australian Open title following an 11-day drama, which saw his visa revoked twice as he did not meet Australia’s COVID-19 entry requirements, despite being told by Tennis Australia he could play the tournament on a medical exemption.
Since arriving home in the capital Belgrade two weeks ago, Djokovic has made several visits to churches and hit the practice court but a meeting on Thursday with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic saw Djokovic speak publicly for the first time about his treatment in Australia.
Djokovic thanked the President and all state institutions for their support “during the unfortunate events in Australia”.
“Although I was alone in detention in Australia and faced many problems and challenges, I did not feel lonely,” he said.
“I had huge support primarily from my family, all of the close people in my life, entire Serbian nation, many people with good intentions from the region and the world.”
He did not go into details about his treatment in Australia, but urged fans to “be patient” and said that he would make an address to the media in the coming days.
“I haven’t spoken in public in regards to the events that happened in Australia, and this is the first time that I have come out in public,” he said.
“Please be patient, because in the next 7 to 10 days I will address the media in more detail with my version, stories and everything that happened in Australia.”
He also reserved a special personal thanks for Mr Vucic, who had been steadfast in his support for Djokovic, even directing a question to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as to why the tennis star had been “harassed”.
“You have stood behind me and placed yourself in a compromised political position in international relations, and I am … extremely grateful,” Djokovic said to the Mr Vucic.
“I will remember that.”
Mr Vucic, who is bidding for re-election in April, said he spoke with Djokovic as soon as he heard about the problems in Australia and told him to come home.
“Thank you for the great fight you fought in Australia,” he told Djokovic.
“And then I saw how … he was ready to fight not only for himself, but for his country.”
The meeting has drawn criticism from some fans in Serbia, who said Mr Vucic used the event to boost his popularity ahead of the elections.
Officials deny test results were faked
The meeting comes a day after Serbia’s state prosecutors rejected reports that Djokovic used a fake positive test for COVID-19 to try to enter Australia under a medical exemption.
In a statement on Wednesday, local time, the prosecution office said that it had received a request for criminal proceedings against unnamed individuals who allegedly forged two PCR certificates, which were later used by Djokovic to apply for an exemption from vaccination when entering Australia.
“The prosecution acted according to the regulations, checks were performed, and it was determined that Novak Djokovic was tested several times and that the certificates on the test results from December 16, 2021, and December 22, 2021, are valid,” the statement said.