Novak Djokovic ‘will not be held captive’, says Australia, as it rejects proposals that he is a prisoner

Novak Djokovic “is not being held captive” and “is free to leave whenever he wants”, the Australian government has said when it rejected proposals that the world’s No. 1 tennis player was in fact a prisoner.

The 34-year-old Serbian star has been pinned in one arresthotel in the last two days after being detained due to a visa issue when he landed in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Djokovic’s detention prompted the Serbian government to accuse Canberra of “harassing” the 34-year-old, which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied.

Home Secretary Karen Andrews told reporters on Friday: “Mr Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia, he is free to leave at any time, he chooses to do so and the Border Force will actually facilitate it.”

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Djokovic’s lawyers successfully fought for urgent legal approval for him to remain in the country until a full court hearing in his case against the federal government on Monday.

The player, who have refused to state their vaccination status and who have previously spoken out against vaccines, was detained by Australia’s border force after a storm over his medical exemption from participating in the Grand Slam on January 17, despite Australia’s efforts to get people inoculated against Covid-19.

The Czech tennis player, Renata Voráčová, has also had her visa canceled and is being held at the same hotel as Djokovic after being detained on Thursday.

It is unclear whether she intends to challenge the decision to have her removed, It informs ABC. She is believed to have entered Australia last month with a vaccine exemption granted by Tennis Australia because she had recently been contracted and recovered from Covid-19.

Djokovic’s wife, Jelena, thanked her supporters for “sending love to my husband”. Thursday, Orthodox Christmas, she took to Instagram to share a photo of the two of them embracing while on the beach, saying, “The only law we should all respect across every single border, is love and respect for another human being. ”

Other A-list tennis players also weighed in on Djokovic’s ordeal. German former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion Boris Becker said Djokovic “made a big mistake” with his anti-vaccination stance.

The American tennis player Tennys Sandgren sent his support. “Novak, get strong, friend,” Sandgren said. “Hope you get out of there soon.”

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios said he believed in vaccination, “but how we handle Novak’s situation is bad, really bad.”

He added: “Like these memes, headlines, this is one of our great masters, but in the end he is human. Do it better.”

Before Djokovic lands on Wednesday, Morrison had warned that there would be no “special rules” for Djokovic and that he should show genuine reasons for being exempted or “being on the next flight home”.

The 34-year-old, who is currently locked in his room in the modest Park Hotel, got his visa canceled when he landed in Melbourne and is now fighting to be liberated so he can take his shot at a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.

Asylum seekers detained at the same hotel in Melbourne as Djokovic used the moment to draw attention to their situation. Mehdi Ali, a 24-year-old from Iran, said he had been imprisoned for nine years. “I do not need good food or food free of maggots. What I need is a chance to enjoy my youth as a free man who was wasted in detention, he said.

Australia, which has experienced the world’s longest cumulative lockdown and is currently battling a record number of infections again, has had more than 90 per cent of its population aged 16 and over double-jabbed.

The public hearing on Monday is expected to reveal more details about the exemption granted to Djokovic and the documentation he provided to immigration officials at the border to support it.

“He’s one who threatens what’s left of his career and his chance to cement himself as the greatest player of all time,” Becker wrote in an opinion piece in Daily Mail newspaper.

Spanish champion Rafael Nadal told reporters in Melbourne that he felt sorry for his rival, “but at the same time he knew the situation since many months ago.”

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