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Novak Djokovic has broken his silence over his ongoing Australian visa row to thank his fans for their support.
He remains detained in Melbourne as he appeals against the decision and while holed up at an immigration facility in the city took to social media for the first time since.
“Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support,” he wrote on Instagram. “I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”
Djokovic has been detained since Thursday morning after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption over the Covid vaccine he had secured to enter the country.
He has appealed against the decision and must wait for a hearing on Monday to discover his fate.
Friday was Christmas in Serbia but Djokovic faces spending the weekend in Melbourne’s Park Hotel, which is used to house asylum seekers and refugees.
His wife Jelena also took to social media to express her gratitude to the player’s fans for their backing.
In Instagram and Twitter posts, Jelena Djokovic wrote: “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. 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. Wishing you all well!”
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has been a fierce critic of Djokovic on many matters, weighed in on Twitter to call for his country to “do better” in its treatment of the nine-time Australian Open champion.
The world No 93 wrote: “Look I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mums health, but 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.”
Hours earlier, Djokovic’s father claimed the world No 1 has been made a scapegoat and “crucified” in the row.
In Belgrade, Srdjan Djokovic demonstrated outside the National Assembly buildings and addressed a media conference to highlight what he perceived to be an injustice Down Under.
“He met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won, since it’s Novak, the best tennis player and sportsman in the world,” Srdjan Djokovic told a press conference on Thursday.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things, but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified... He will endure.”
Australian home affairs minister Karen Andrews insisted all other players with exemptions would be looked at closely while also confirming Djokovic wasn’t being “held captive” in the country and is “free to leave at any time”.
“As people come into Australia, they need to have met our entry requirements as well as having a visa,” she told Channel 9 news.
“They stand the risk if they come in and don’t have the proper documentation, that they will be stopped at the border and will go through exactly the same process which is being played out now.
“He (Djokovic) hasn’t met the entry requirements – there is a lot of chatter about the visa, but that in my understanding is not the issue, it is the entry requirements... that he was not able to produce the evidence which was needed for entry into Australia.”
She added to ABC: “(He) is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that.”
Two other people connected to the Australian Open have joined Djokovic in being instructed to leave the country, one confirmed as Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova.
The tournament begins on Monday 17 January.
Additional reporting by PA