TENNIS star Novak Djokovic has finally broken his silence as the vaccine row continues while he remains holed up in a Covid quarantine hotel.
The anti-vax World No 1 thanked his supporters "around the world" who have backed his defiant stance after his controversial decision to compete Down Under before his visa was sensationally revoked.
He was granted a vaccine exemption to compete in the Australian Open before his visa was cancelled following a six hour stand-off at Melbourne Airport and a major U-turn by Australian authorities.
He was then banished to a filthy hotel "full of fleas and maggots" in Melbourne to isolate.
In an Instagram post, he wrote: "Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated."
Furious fans began to congregate outside the Park Hotel in Carlton in protest of his quarantine and having his visa stripped from him.
They were encouraged by the tennis player's father Srdjan, who called on people to "take to the streets".
His wife Jelena also spoke out today to applaud supporters while calling for "love and forgiveness" as tensions in the sports world rise.
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The 35-year-old wrote: "Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband.
"The only law that we should all respect across every single border is Love and respect for another human being."
Australia's Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews revealed the Serbian sportsman did not provide adequate reason for why he is unjabbed.
She told Channel Nine's Today Show: "Anyone entering Australia has to meet the entry requirements which includes medical evidence of vaccination or alternately for medical reasons that individual cannot be vaccinated.
"So, specifically he [Djokovic] hasn't met the medical reasons why he couldn't be vaccinated."
However, she rebutted claims Djokovic is being held "prisoner" and said he can leave any time he wants but is staying of his own free will as he awaits a decision from the courts.
The 34-year-old had been granted an exemption to play despite his unvaccinated status – before it was dramatically cancelled.
As the athlete attempted to enter Aussie territory, he was ordered into a side-room by Border Force guards after a visa "blunder" was revealed.
Djokovic, seeking to win a record 21st Grand Slam title, was stripped of his phone and kept alone in the room, with armed police on patrol outside.
Even Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic got involved, eventually contacting Djokovic to offer his support and backing and summoning Australia’s ambassador to the country for a dressing down.
It emerged that Tennis Australia had granted exemptions to two other players who did not meet strict Border Force rules.
Djokovic is set to remain in a quarantine hotel until at least Monday as the hearing for his injunction request against the visa cancellation was pushed back until after the weekend.
A judge adjourned proceedings until 10am on Monday, meaning Djokovic faces an uncertain weekend in the Park Hotel.
BORDER FORCE CRACKDOWN
In another twist, a second Australian Open competitor was detained by Border Force under similar circumstances and sent to the same hotel.
Despite already playing in Melbourne earlier this week, Czech Republic doubles specialist Renata Voracova has now been asked to leave the country.
It comes amid a crackdown by authorities on passengers arriving Down Under despite not meeting the entry requirements.
Czech officials announced the 38-year-old decided to drop out of the tournament.
Nicknamed Nole — and now “Novax” – Djokovic's unorthodox beliefs have been debated after he arguably became the world’s most high-profile anti-vaxxer.
He employs a spiritual guru, believes you can talk to water and counts a tree as a friend.
Many believe his current plight is one of his own making by him refusing to provide proof he is exempt from the Covid vaccination.
In 2020 he said: “Personally, I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”
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