Novak Djokovic returns to Belgrade after being expelled from Australia

Djokovic traveled to Belgrade from Melbourne via Dubai after losing a legal challenge on Sunday against the Australian government’s decision to cancel his visa on public health and order grounds.

Crowds gathered at the airport to welcome the 34-year-old Serb back home – chanting his name and holding banners and flags in support – on Monday. The night before, a building in Belgrade was lit up with the words “Nole [Djokovic’s nickname], you are the pride of Serbia.”

The Serbian Olympic Committee said it was “very disappointed” with Australia’s “scandalous decision” to expel Djokovic, adding that a “huge injustice” had been done, while Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the cancellation of the visa was “scandalous”.

“I’m disappointed and I think it showed how the rule of law works in some other countries, which is how it doesn’t work,” Brnabic said in an interview with the Beta news agency. in Belgrade.

“I can’t wait to see Djokovic in his own country, in Serbia, and to go through this with him and to support him in this difficult time for him,” she added.

Under Australian law, Djokovic can be banned from the country for three years, although Home Secretary Karen Andrews has not ruled out an exemption. “Any application will be considered on its merits,” she said.

The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the tennis season. The second is the French Open at Roland Garros, which runs from May 22 to June 5.

But all professional athletes who want to compete in France will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the French sports ministry told CNN on Monday.

France’s vaccination pass law, approved by parliament on Sunday, will require people to have a vaccination certificate to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and sports arenas, among others.

“The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be required as soon as the law comes into force in establishments already subject to the health pass (sports or cultural). This will apply to all (spectators, professional athletes) “, said a French Sports. The ministry spokeswoman told CNN.

This new legislation jeopardizes the chances of Djokovic, who has not been vaccinated against Covid-19, to compete at Roland-Garros.

The French Open previously allowed unvaccinated players to compete as they operated in a bubble around the tournament.

He will also have to comply with Spanish health rules to participate in the next Madrid Open which will start at the end of April, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.

Sanchez welcomed Australia’s decision to expel Djokovic, saying he had “full respect for the Australian government’s decision”.

Spain currently requires visitors to show proof of full vaccination, a recent negative Covid test within 72 hours of arrival or a certificate of recovery from Covid-19, according to its health ministry.

International sporting events in the country may add additional rules for participants, such as daily Covid-19 testing during the tournament, a senior government official told CNN on Monday.

Fans wave a Serbian flag as Djokovic arrives in Belgrade.

Djokovic is the reigning men’s singles champion on the clay courts of Roland Garros. Along with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he won 20 Grand Slam titles.

“As for Roland Garros, it’s in May. The situation may change by then and we hope it will be more favorable. So we’ll see but now clearly it’s not safe [from the rules]“, added the spokesperson.

Al Goodman, Joseph Ataman, Aleks Klosok, Sharon Braithewaite, Biljana Brise and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report

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