One of the Novak Djokovic’s staunchest critics, Nick Kyrgios came to the defence of the world No 1 on Friday, calling Australia’s treatment of him “really bad” and urging authorities to “do better”.
The Australian star, who at one point labelled the Serb a “tool” over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, took to Twitter to rue the situation.
Djokovic – who has questioned vaccines in the past and recently claimed to have an exemption to Australia’s pandemic entry restrictions – is in an immigration detention hotel.
Djokovic was detained on arrival in Australia earlier this week with his visa revoked for failing to meet the tough Covid restrictions.
Those granted permission to enter the country must prove they are fully vaccinated or have a doctor’s medical exemption, with authorities saying he provided evidence of neither.
He won a legal reprieve from deportation until at least Monday, when his case will be heard in court.
Djokovic on Friday posted his first message since landing in Australia, as he thanked people “around the world” for their support. “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. i can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”
The Serb’s wife Jelena Djokovic, in her Christmas post, said on Instagram that she is taking a deep breath to calm down in this difficult situation.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Rafael Nadal, who is in Melbourne already playing in the tune-up events, spoke in some detail about the situation on Sunday.
Nadal contracted Covid last month and said he was a big believer in getting vaccinated to stem a pandemic in which “a lot of people had been dying”.
“I went through the 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,” the Spaniard had said in Melbourne.
“The only for me clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion have been suffering enough to not follow the rules.
“He made his own decisions and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences,” he added of Djokovic.
“Of course I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way I feel sorry for him.
“But at the same time, he knew the conditions since a lot of months ago, so he makes his own decision.”
Also on Friday, in an evident fallout of this saga, Australia has cancelled the visa of female Czech tennis player Renata Voracova who entered the country to play in this month’s Australian Open, several media reports said.
AFP video and photo images showed a woman who appeared to be Voracova peering out of the window of a Melbourne immigration detention facility, where she had reportedly been taken, on Friday evening.
The 38-year-old player was detained by officials of the Australian Border Force, said reports by national broadcaster ABC, The Age newspaper and the Sydney Morning Herald, all quoting a government source.
According to the reports, which could not be immediately confirmed with the home affairs ministry, Voracova was transferred to Melbourne’s Park Hotel building, which now serves as a detention facility holding some 32 refugees and asylum seekers.
She was reportedly told she would have to leave the country soon. But it was not known if she would mount a legal challenge, as Djokovic has done, the reports said.
Meanwhile, former US Open champion Marin Cilic said it was “incredible” that Djokovic was in immigration detention and it wasn’t a good look for international tennis.
“Looking at the situation, it’s definitely incredible that this happened the way it did, especially to Novak, that he got here, that this is still going on,” he said at the Adelaide International.
“Definitely feeling very sorry for him. Hope that this is going to be resolved very soon. Definitely it’s not a great picture for tennis, to have something like this.”
Russian world number two Daniil Medvedev said his views on the saga were “quite straightforward”.
“If he has an exemption, well, he should be here. If something was wrong with the papers and they didn’t let him in, well, that’s what happens sometimes,” the US Open champion said in Sydney.
“I have a lot of problems with visas in my career.”
Italian world number seven Matteo Berrettini, who Medvedev beat at the ATP Cup on Thursday, expressed “some sympathy” for the predicament that Djokovic finds himself in.
But, like Nadal, he understands the backlash in Australia.
“Nobody wants to be in that situation,” he said.
“But at same time, I can understand why Australian people obviously feel like they do. I think Melbourne had the longest lockdown in the world, so I can understand these people.”
“We are not calling for violence – only for support.”
– Djokovic’s father Srdjan at a rally in Belgrade. The crowd waved Serbian flags and homemade signs, including a banner that read: “They are afraid of the best, stop corona fascism”.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified... the best sportsman and man in the world. He will endure.”
– Srdjan Djokovic
“What is not fair-play is the political witch hunt (being conducted against Novak), by everybody including the Australian Prime Minister pretending that the rules apply to all.”
– Serbia president Aleksandar Vucic
“Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but was treated that way by the Australian authorities which causes an understandable indignation of his fans and citizens of Serbia.”
– Serbia foreign ministry statement
“You cannot make people love you and that’s been the situation a little bit. He’s a fine young sportsman with the right attitude and the right character, he just has a different view on life. He has a different view how he eats, how he drinks, how he sleeps. That’s where you can’t criticise him. Maybe that’s the reason he’s so successful, but he’s not for everybody - I get it.”
– Djokovic’s former coach and six-time Grand Slam title winner Boris Becker to the BBC.
“We shouldn’t gather in the streets over an argument about a participant in a tennis tournament. The risk profile with this sort of stuff was zero if vaccinated. We all make our own choices. We also have our own consequences.”
– Former US Open champion and world number one Andy Roddick, an early career rival of Djokovic.
Djokovic’s detention put the attention on the hotel that is now at the center of attention.
The dark-brown brick and concrete building is believed to be housing around 32 detainees who cannot leave the hotel and nobody is allowed in or out except staff. Migrants say the rooms are relatively small.
Australia’s border control authorities have refused to confirm where the player is staying.
The Park Hotel gained notoriety last December when a fire in the building forced refugees and asylum seekers to be evacuated. One person was hospitalised for smoke inhalation. There were no fatalities.
A week later, asylum seekers posted images to social media showing food they had been served allegedly filled with maggots alongside mouldy pieces of bread.
Earlier, in October, 21 men reportedly contracted Covid in the facility, which has been the site of regular protests.
Detainee Mehdi Ali told AFP, that although Djokovic is his favourite tennis player, he was saddened by the prospect of the star being detained there.
“The media will talk about us more, the whole world probably, which is so sad, just because Djokovic would be here for a few days.”
(With AFP inputs)