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- Serbian tennis player
Novak Djokovic's family has accused Australia of waging a "political agenda" against their son, while taking to the streets of the nation's capital Belgrade to protest the ugly saga.
Serbia has rallied around the world No.1 after he was denied entry into Australia for the year's opening grand slam tournament at Melbourne Park.
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The 34-year-old was granted a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements to compete in the year's first major, but after a public outcry in Australia was detained by officials at the border on Thursday.
Djokovic is now in a quarantine hotel in Melbourne after his lawyers secured an agreement for him to stay in the country for a court hearing on Monday in which he hopes to overturn the federal government ban on his entry.
"They're keeping him in captivity. They are trampling on Novak and thus they are trampling on Serbia and the Serbian people," Djokovic's father Srdjan told reporters at a news conference in Belgrade on Thursday.
"(Australian Prime Minister, Scott) Morrison and his like have dared attack Novak to bring Serbia to its knees. Novak has always shown that he comes from a proud nation," Srdjan said.
"This has nothing to do with sports, this is a political agenda. Novak is the best player and the best athlete in the world, but several hundred million people from the West can't stomach that," he added.
Djokovic's father accused Australia and the West of "mistreating" Djokovic because he is a Serb and evoked the 1999 bombing by NATO of Serbia over its breakaway province of Kosovo.
"Shame on them, the entire freedom-loving world should rise together with Serbia," Srdjan said.
"They crucified Jesus and now they are trying to crucify Novak the same way and force him on his knees."
Djokovic’s mother, Dijana also hit out at the Australian government and the state of her son's Melbourne accomodation in a heated press conference on Thursday.
“I feel terrible since yesterday, the last 24 hours. They are keeping him like a prisoner. It’s just not fair. It’s not human,” she said.
“I just hope he will be strong as we are trying also to be very strong to give him some energy to keep on going. I hope that he will win.”
While Djokovic's lawyers fight for the World No.1's visa status, he is being housed in a hotel where refugees and asylum seekers are often placed by immigration officials.
“It’s just some small immigration hotel, if we can call it a hotel at all. Some bugs, it’s dirty, and the food is so terrible,” Dijana Djokovic added.
Djokovic's father described his son as "the Spartacus of the new world that doesn't tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy."
The 34-year-old's family displayed his nine Australian Open trophies at the conference, before organising a supporters' rally in front of Serbia's parliament building in the city centre.
Serbia fumes over Novak Djokovic saga
Former mentor Niki Pilic, who oversaw Djokovic's career as a teenager, told Reuters that the situation was "farcical", adding: "Politics have interfered with sports here as it so often does."
Pilic said Morrison was "trying to please a part of the country's society and improve his poor political rating."
Former Yugoslavia Davis Cup coach Radmilo Armenulic said Djokovic had been treated "like a felon".
"They detained him under police presence. He was held in a room for eight hours after he was cleared to take part in the Australian Open by the medical panel," Armenulic said.
"This decision, in my opinion, reflects lawlessness and not the rule of law. They have treated Novak like a criminal and a villain to stop him from winning his 21st grand slam."
Serbian politicians seized on the opportunity to get a popularity boost ahead of this year's elections as protesters gathered in downtown Belgrade calling for his release.
Populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's government summoned the Australian ambassador in protest of Djokovic's "detention".
Vucic said he had spoken to Djokovic and blasted Australian authorities for keeping the tennis star in an "infamous hotel".
"I'm afraid that this overkill will continue," Vucic said. "When you can't defeat someone on the court, then you do such things."
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