Seven questions about Novak Djokovic’s visa row – dad's arrest claim to 'Covid outing' & hostile fans at Australian Open

TENNIS fans are used to on court drama – but the saga of the World No 1's visa row is proving even more gripping.

The latest twist in Novak Djokovic's detainment debacle, which has been rolling on for a week, is his father claiming he has been re-arrested in Australia.

It started when the anti-vaxxer boasted, on January 4, that he was heading to Melbourne to play at the Australian Open after being given an exemption.

But on arrival, the Serbian ace was held at an immigration centre after his visa was dramatically cancelled, and then housed in a quarantine hotel.

Lawyers for the 20-time Grand Slam winner argued that Djokovic didn't need to have the vaccine as he had already had Covid and that border force officials hadn't given enough notice to revoke his visa.

A judge ruled on Monday he should be released from detention.

But within hours, it was claimed he had been arrested.

However his family said today that he has returned to training on the court, with his brother declaring "justice has won and the rule of law has won".

With just one week to go until the tournament kicks off, it's still unclear as to whether Djokovic will be able to play and have the chance to steal the record for the greatest ever tennis player.

Here we take a look at the seven pressing questions surrounding his detainment row.

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1. Has he been re-arrested?

Crowds gathered around a car believed to be transporting the star on Monday morningCredit: Reuters

Novak's dad Srdjan Djokovic claimed his son had been detained again – despite a judge ruling he should be freed.

He later told Serbian media: "I call on the Queen of Britain, Elizabeth, the leader of the Commonwealth, to intervene and protect the human rights of my son Novak Djokovic and to stop the political prosecution that has been carried out against him since he came to Australia."

However, the situation is unclear as the sportman's brother, Djordje, reportedly told Sportklub said the player is "with his lawyers" as ministers want to "capture and lock him up".

Australian media sources are also claiming Government sources deny he has been re-arrested.

Regardless, the claims prompted outraged supporters to form huge crowds outside Djokovic's lawyer's office, where groups swarmed a car believed to be carrying the star.

In chaotic scenes, fans chanted Djokovic's name and hurled items as cops used what is thought to be pepper spray in an attempt to control them.

Photos later showed that the tennis star was NOT actually in the car – which had blacked out windows.

2. Did he break isolation knowing he had Covid?

Djokovic's lawyers said he was given a vaccine exemption because the star hadCovid recently.

Court documents showed that he tested positive on December 16.

Pictures since emerged of Djokovic hugging a child and not wearing a mask during a ceremony at the Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade, which reportedly took place on December 17.

It is unclear whether he was aware he had Covid at the time.

Around the same time, a maskless Djokovic was pictured as a panellist at an indoor discussion for his charity foundation.

He shared pictures on Instagram of him receiving a stamp made in his honour the day after he allegedly tested positive for Covid.

It has raised questions as to the authenticity of his Covid claims.

3. Could he still be banned?

Yes, is the short answer.

Although he won his visa appeal court case, the federal minister for immigration still has the power to cancel Djokovic's visa with the "personal power of cancellation".

Christopher Tan, the lawyer acting for the government, warned the judge in the case of this possibility.

If the government chooses to pursue this course of action, it could mean Djokovic is deported from the country and barred for three years – a devastating blow for his grand slam career.

Judge Anthony Kelly admitted it isn't all over, saying: "The stakes have now risen rather than receded.

"I cannot purport to encroach on the valid exercise of a minister of executive power."

4. What do other tennis stars think of the row?

Former British tennis ace Andrew Castle told BBC Breakfast hosts Naga Munchetty and Dan Walker that it would be a "nuclear option" if the government overrules the judge's decision now.

He believes Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the state government of Victoria felt "political pressure" to detain Djokovic in the first place.

He said: "Did they act because they realised, rightly I think, there was public outrage that Novak Djokovic might be getting different treatment than anybody else?"

Former world no.1 Martina Navratilova has slammed Djokovic for refusing the jab. She told Good Morning Britain: "It’s unbelievable, what a saga. It could have been avoided. I just wish Novak had taken that vaccination to begin with.

"I admire him so much but I can’t defend the choice to not get vaccinated."

Fellow grand slam star, Rafa Nadal, agreed.

I admire him so much but I can’t defend the choice to not get vaccinated

He said: "I believe in what the people who knows about medicine says, and if the people says that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine [sic].

"I went through Covid. I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this you don’t have any problem to play here. That’s the only clear thing."

Nadal joked today that he'd "much rather he didn't play" and wished him the best of luck.

But Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios said the whole situation had been handled badly.

Nick, who has been vaccinated and is known for his on court dramas, said: "How we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad. 

"Like these memes, headlines, this is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better."

5. What do the fans think?

Djokovic's fans erupted in jubilation after the judge ruled border guards had not given the star enough notice that his visa was being overturned, allowing him to be freed from his detention at Melbourne's Park Hotel.

Many were gathered outside the court wearing colours of the Serbian flag or draping themselves in flags.

They had also been stationed outside the hotel for days, waving "Free Novak" banners to support their hero.

But within hours, confusion and anger spread when it was alleged Djokovic had been rearrested.

Footage shows fans surrounding a vehicle believed to be carrying the star, and it was reported police had sprayed a substance thought to be pepper spray at the crowds.

Many of his supporters joined the #BoycottAustralianOpen on Twitter.

One wrote: "Never in the history of sport has an athlete been banned for NOT taking a drug."

Former UKIP leader and MEP Nigel Farage has been supporting Djokovic's cause online, tweeting a video from Belgrade with the tennis star's family.

He posted: "If they can do this to the world's no 1 tennis player, just think what they could do to you."

Two-time Wimbledon champ Andy Murray has since waded in, telling Mr Farage to "record the awkward moment when you tell them you've spent most of your career campaigning to have people from Eastern Europe deported".

6. If he is allowed to play, will he be on top form?

Being stuck in a quarantine hotel for nearly a week is hardly the ideal preparation for a big tournament – arguably the biggest of Djokovic's career.

Currently Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are neck and neck with 20 grand slam titles each. Djokovic has his eye on getting that golden 21st title at the Australian Open, to become the world's greatest ever tennis player.

But instead of getting out on the warm-up courts, being attended to by physios and relaxing in luxury, Djokovic has been holed up in a hotel known for holding refugees and allegedly serving maggot-infested food.

On arrival at the Park Hotel he demanded his personal chef so that he could continue to follow his gluten-free diet. He also asked for a private tennis court.

Those requests were rejected by border officials, but Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic negotiated for him to receive gluten-free food deliveries and have access to exercise equipment.

Ms Brnabic added: "He has been given a laptop, a SIM card so that he can be in contact with his family."

His mother, Djiana, likened to his treatment as that of a "prisoner" and revealed that the star was having trouble getting enough rest.

She said: "He was trying to sleep, but he couldn’t… They are keeping him like a prisoner, it’s just not fair, it’s not human."

7. What does it all mean for future sporting events?

With differing vaccine and entry restrictions for different countries around the world, Covid could have a big effect on where sportsmen and women are able to travel.

Andrew Castle said: "There is bound to be more of it in terms of Australia, you have the Formula One Grand Prix coming up in April, ultimately where does this whole story go?

"Are you going to be able to make the decision on your own vaccination or not? So, we get into mandatory vaccination argument in effect because that is where the pressure is going.

"If it is like this, is this going to push or nudge people to become vaccinated or is it going to harm their stance for what they believe, rightly or wrongly?"

Andy Murray said the whole row had put a dampner on one of the calendar's biggest events

He said: “It’s really not good for tennis at all, and I don’t think it’s good for anyone involved.”

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