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Novak Djokovic’s parents accuse the Australian authorities of ‘crucifying’ their World No 1 son

Novak Djokovic’s parents accused the Australian authorities on Thursday of ‘crucifying’ their son as he was moved to a detention hotel used to house refugees and asylum-seekers.

Yet one of his main rivals, Rafael Nadal, offered little sympathy, suggesting that the world No 1 knew the risk he was running by declining the vaccine.

With Djokovic confined to accommodation in Melbourne where the food has been described as maggot-ridden, it emerged that the paperwork supporting his visa on the basis of an exemption was decidedly flimsy.

He is being held at the hotel after his lawyers secured permission for him to remain in the country after being initially barred on Wednesday. There will be a court hearing on Monday to determine whether he is deported.

The Djokovic family staged an emotional press conference on Thursday in which the player’s father Srdjan used hyberbolic language to describe his son’s condition.

‘Jesus was crucified and everything was done to him, and he endured, he is still alive among us,’ said Srdjan. 

Novak Djokovic’s parents accused the Australian authorities of ‘crucifying’ their son

Djokovic is being held at an Australian hotel after his visa was rejected by the authorities

Djokovic is being held at an Australian hotel after his visa was rejected by the authorities

There will be a court hearing on Monday to determine whether he is deported from Australia

There will be a court hearing on Monday to determine whether he is deported from Australia

‘They are trying to crucify Novak in the same way, to underestimate him, to throw him to his knees, to do everything to him.’ He also addressed Australian premier Scott Morrison, who has encouraged a hardline position against the nine-times Melbourne champion.

‘You, famous prime minister of the far-away, naturally beautiful country, are behaving according to your principles, which have nothing to do with us and our principles. We are humans, you are not.’

Djokovic’s mother Dijana said that they had spoken to their son, who is in a secured facility until his court case is heard.

‘His accommodation is terrible. It’s just some small, immigration hotel. With bugs, it’s all dirty, the food is terrible. They don’t want to give him a chance to move to a better hotel or a rented house,’ she said, adding that he was having problems sleeping.

The player's father Srdjan used hyperbolic language to describe his son's condition

The player’s father Srdjan used hyperbolic language to describe his son’s condition

He also addressed Australian premier Scott Morrison, who has encouraged a hardline position

He also addressed Australian premier Scott Morrison, who has encouraged a hardline position

Her words were backed up by Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic, who said: ‘The whole of Serbia is with him and our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world’s best tennis player ends as soon as possible.’

Nadal did express some pity for a player he has faced 58 times across the net, but pointedly remarked that he could easily have avoided his fate.

‘I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem,’ said the Spaniard, who is staying in the contrasting environment of the city’s main casino hotel.

‘He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences. 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.

Supporters of Djokovic protested outside the facility where Djokovic is said to be detained

Supporters of Djokovic protested outside the facility where Djokovic is said to be detained

‘That’s my point of view. 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 world in my opinion has been suffering enough to not follow the rules. After a lot of people have been dying for two years, my feeling is the vaccine is the only way to stop this pandemic.’

Not everyone shares Nadal’s view. Djokovic’s long-time Davis Cup team-mate and now Serbia captain Viktor Troicki described his plight as ‘a nightmare for the sport’, adding: ‘No athlete, one of the greatest champions in the world, has ever been treated that way, tortured in a way. It’s a huge scandal, it’s just politics.’

Djokovic’s situation continued to fuel diplomatic tension between Belgrade and Canberra, with President Vucic alleging that Australia was guilty of ‘maltreatment’ when it came to his nation’s leading sports star.

More details emerged on Thursday about the circumstances that have led to the champion’s detention.

Djokovic's mother Dijana said that they had spoken to their son, who is in a secured facility

Djokovic’s mother Dijana said that they had spoken to their son, who is in a secured facility

The Age newspaper in Melbourne reported that Djokovic was carrying with him only threadbare paperwork. This was to back up the medical exemption he had been given for a visa handed to those who have not been vaccinated.

Djokovic is believed to have based his application on the claim that he has had Covid in the past six months, which seems to have been a disputed basis for entry. The paper reported that there was only one doctor’s note in support. It quoted an unnamed official as saying: ‘It was totally insufficient and he couldn’t produce anything new. What else were we meant to do in the situation?’

The player’s lawyers are expected to point to three other tennis personnel who were granted medical exemptions on similar grounds, although their documentation was said to be more extensive.

Rafael Nadal (R) offered little sympathy suggesting Djokovic knew the risk he was running

Rafael Nadal (R) offered little sympathy suggesting Djokovic knew the risk he was running

Davis Cup team-mate and Serbia captain Viktor Troicki (L) described his plight as 'a nightmare for the sport'

Davis Cup team-mate and Serbia captain Viktor Troicki (L) described his plight as ‘a nightmare for the sport’

Some at Tennis Australia, who run the Open, are among those who believe there has been an element of political grandstanding about Djokovic. There is the feeling that politicians are trying to win favour with a local population sensitive to the perception of rich athletes getting special treatment.

The national government are said to have warned the tennis body last year that recent infection with Covid might not be sufficient grounds for entry.

Even if Djokovic is granted leave to stay his difficulties playing on the tour will only have just begun. The biggest tournaments after Australia are in countries such as the US, France and Italy, all of which are set to make vaccination mandatory for visiting athletes.

Sources at Wimbledon say that they will go along with prevailing government advice at the time, and with the event still six months away it is too soon to say what that might be.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic alleging that Australia was guilty of 'maltreatment'

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic alleging that Australia was guilty of ‘maltreatment’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk