Novak Djokovic thanks fans for support from immigration hotel as COVID vaccine saga escalates

Novak Djokovic has broken his silence to thank his supporters while spending a second night in an immigration detention hotel, as Australian officials cancelled another tennis player’s visa.

The world No.1 has taken to Instagram for the first time since he arrived in Australia amid the visa row over his COVID-19 vaccination status that has resulted in him being housed at a Melbourne hotel ahead of his Australian Open title defence.

“Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support,” Djokovic said.

“I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”

A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne asked to visit Djokovic on Friday on what is Orthodox Christmas Day in Serbia but was not allowed because of the lockdown at the hotel.

“Our Christmas is rich in many customs, and it is so important that a priest visits him,” the church’s dean, Milorad Locard, told the ABC.

“The whole thing around this event is appalling. That he has to spend Christmas in detention … it is unthinkable.”

Djokovic’s wife Jelena has also posted on social media, suggesting her husband should be treated with compassion.

“My consolation is that at least we are healthy. And we will grow from this experience,” she said on Instagram.

“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.”

The saga took another turn on Saturday after documents emerged reportedly showing Tennis Australia had informed players they need not be vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter Australia if they had the virus in the prior six months.

“The following has now been clarified as a category for which you may be eligible for a temporary medical exemption: Recent PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (after 31 July 2021) where a vaccination can be deferred until six months after the infection,” said the TA letter to players, published by the Herald Sun.

That information was at odds with TA boss Craig Tiley had been told multiple times by health officials and Health Minister Greg Hunt himself in late November.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on a temporary exemption from receiving a vaccine due to a recent infection does not apply to unvaccinated travellers seeking entry to Australia.

TA, addressing the controversy for the first time, denied that the mounting evidence proved it was at fault for Djokovic’s visa troubles.

“We reject completely that the playing group was knowingly misled,” TA said in a statement on Friday night.

“Informing players they could get into the country on a medical exemption was taken from the Smart Traveller website that Greg Hunt directly referred us to.”

Kyrgios: ‘I don’t want any bar of him’
Nick Kyrgios has warned a fired-up Djokovic will be out to “stick it to everyone” if the nine-time champion is able to play in the Australian Open.

He doubled down on his Friday call for Australian authorities to “do better” than the humiliating treatment of Djokovic, saying it wasn’t “humane” and the Serbian had been singled out due to his superstar status.

“I’m feeling for him now, it’s not really humane what’s going on … I want it to end,” Krygios said at a Sydney Tennis International press conference.

But Kyrgios doesn’t think the world No.1’s detention in a small hotel room will dent his hopes of landing a record 21st grand slam title in Melbourne.

He hopes not to meet him early in the draw.

“If he’s allowed to play the Australian Open, I don’t want any bar of him,” Kyrgios said.