Novak Djokovic thanks fans for their support in first message from Australian border detention hotel – after his wife called for ‘love and forgiveness’

  • Djokovic has broken his silence from inside Australian border detention hotel 
  • Serbian tennis ace thanked fans for their support as he fights deportation 
  • He also wished followers a happy Christmas, because he is celebrating the event today in line with the Orthodox tradition 
  • Comes after his wife asked for ‘love and forgiveness’ amid the border fiasco 

Novak Djokovic has spoken out from inside Australian border detention to thank his family and fans for their support as he waits to hear whether he will be deported.

The Serbian tennis ace, who has been held since Wednesday after he was barred from entering the country to compete in the Australian Open, also posted a Christmas message because today is Christmas Day in the Orthodox tradition.

‘Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,’ he wrote in English underneath a post in Serbian, in which he also thanked his family and countrymen. 

A second post against a background which featured an image of the birth of Christ said: ‘God’s peace. Christ is born. Happy Christmas. May God’s love invigorate and fulfill you all.’

Djokovic is spending his Christmas Day languishing in a ‘torture chamber’ hotel used for immigration detainees close to Melbourne airport after his medical exemption to enter the country was torn up by border guards who said he didn’t qualify.

He will remain in the hotel while his legal team battles to get him into the country in time for the tournament, with his case due before a court on Monday. If the appeal is rejected then he will be deported.

The athlete’s post came after wife Jelena penned her own Instagram post lending support to her husband while calling for ‘love and forgiveness’. 

Novak Djokovic’s wife Jelena (together, file image) has sent a message of support to her husband – wishing him a ‘happy Christmas’ because January 7 is the day that Orthodox Christians celebrate – while he languishes in Covid quarantine in Australia

Jelena asked for ‘love and respect’ in message posted alongside a photo of the couple to the social media on Friday (pictured)

The 35-year-old mother-of-two said she is ‘taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude and understanding’ in a message posted on Instagram (above)

Leaked letter PROVES Tennis Australia bosses told unvaccinated players a past Covid infection  would get them into the country

A leaked letter has revealed that unvaccinated tennis players were told they could attend the Australian Open provided they had Covid within the last six months – piling pressure on Tennis Australia bosses over the Novak Djokovic border debacle. 

Guidance sent to players in early December and now leaked to the press lays out reasons that athletes can qualify for a ‘medical exemption’ to enter Australia, saying that ‘recently recovered cases’ will be allowed into the country.

To qualify, players were told to provide a Covid-positive PCR test dated after July 31 along with antibody tests proving natural immunity ‘if available’. The leak will heap pressure on Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley to prove what he was told and when, and why exactly that guidance was issued. 



It is believed that Djokovic travelled to Australia using this exemption only to be stopped at the border and told that he didn’t meet requirements, leaving him languishing in a ‘torture chamber’ hotel used for detained immigrants.

Mr Tiley was already under pressure after Jacinta Allan, acting Victorian premier, accused him of failing to disclose guidance he was given in November saying that prior infections would not count at border control.

She denied that a medical exemption issued by her state had qualified Djokovic to cross the Australian border, saying it only gave him access to venues in the state.

Ms Allan said: ‘It is the Commonwealth government … that’s responsible for issuing visas and how they engage in that dialogue with bodies like Tennis Australia is a matter for them.’ 

Exemptions to play in the Australian Open are ‘very much separate from the visa process,’ Allan added.  

The 35-year-old mother-of-two, who met Djokovic as a teenager and has been censured for spreading Covid disinformation in the past, wrote on Instagram that she is ‘taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude (and understanding) in this moment for all that is happening.’

‘Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband,’ she added. ‘The only law that we should all respect across every single border is Love and respect for another human being.’ 

She also wished her husband a ‘happy Christmas’ because Orthodox Christians mark Jesus’s birthday on January 7. An Orthodox priest said it was ‘appalling’ that Djokovic is spending the day in a hotel likened to a ‘torture chamber’.

Her message was posted amid protests in Serbia led by Djokovic’s parents, who have slammed his treatment by Australian border officials – claiming he is being held ‘prisoner’ in ‘terrible’ conditions.

But Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has hit back, saying Djokovic can leave any time he wants and is staying of his own will while lawyers contest the border ruling. His case is due in court Monday. 

‘Mr Djokovic 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,’ she said. 

She spoke as the blame game among Australian officials over the saga continued, with Victoria’s state premier today pointing the finger at tennis bosses. 

Jacinta Allan, acting Victorian premier, has been under pressure because it was her state which granted Djokovic a medical exemption – believed to be on the grounds that he was previously infected with Covid because he is not currently vaccinated.

But Allan clarified on Friday, saying the exemption only qualified Djokovic to play in the tournament and not to cross the Australian border.

Instead she pointed the finger of blame at Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia boss, after it emerged the Department of Health sent him two letters back in November saying that prior Covid infection would not be sufficient to cross the border.

Allan said Tiley failed to inform her government that the exemption which qualified Djokovic to play in the tournament would not get him into the country.

According to her account, it was this failed communication which led Djokovic to board a flight to Australia believing he had been granted an exemption to enter the country – when in fact he had not.

Ms Allan said: ‘It is the Commonwealth government … that’s responsible for issuing visas and how they engage in that dialogue with bodies like Tennis Australia is a matter for them.’ 

Exemptions to play in the Australian Open are ‘very much separate from the visa process,’ Allan added. 

Djokovich has been receiving calls from Serbia, including from his parents and the president, hoping to boost his spirits. 

A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne sought permission from immigration authorities to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.

‘Our Christmas is rich in many customs and it is so important that a priest visits him,’ the church’s dean, Milorad Locard, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.  

Supporters of the Serbian tennis star have gathered outside the Covid hotel where he is being quarantined to demand that he be released

The hotel where Djokovic is being kept has been likened to a ‘torture chamber’ which is also used to house refugees

Opponents of Djokovic- who has drawn controversy in the past after speaking out against vaccines – have also been out protesting

‘The whole thing around this event is appalling. That he has to spend Christmas in detention … it is unthinkable.’

Djokovic’s supporters gathered outside the Park Hotel, used to house refugees and asylum seekers near downtown Melbourne, waving flags and banners.

They mixed with human rights advocates who were there more to highlight the plight for other longer-term people in detention, many who’ve complained about their living conditions and exposure to the coronavirus in the pandemic.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled because he ‘didn’t meet the requirements of entry’. 

Djokovic’s legal team took the matter to the Federal Court of Australia in an attempt to have the decision swiftly overturned.

On Thursday, the court ordered Djokovic could remain in the country until at least Monday 4pm. It’s hoped the matter will be settled in court that day.

Tennis Australia have indicated they want a decision as to whether Djokovic can play in the Grand Slam no later than Tuesday ‘for scheduling purposes’. 

The Australian Open was dealt a further blow today as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews revealed two other international arrivals were being investigated after travelling to Australia in similar circumstances for the Open.

‘I can confirm the Australian Border Force is conducting its inquiries … I am aware that there are two individuals currently being investigated by Australian Border Force,’ Andrews told Channel Seven. 

Andrews said anyone entering Australia had to show evidence of vaccination or medical reasons why they are not vaccinated.

‘We do have the intelligence to indicate there are some individuals here now that have not met the entry requirements and we have to investigate that,’ Andrews said earlier on the Nine Network.

‘I know there is a lot of chatter about the visa. The visa, on my understanding, is not the issue, it is the entry requirement.

‘The Border Force has been very clear that he (Novak) was not able to meet the requirement to provide the evidence he needed for entry to Australia.’

Beyond the quiet of Djokovic’s hotel, the outcry in his native Serbia is growing with his family saying he had been ‘held captive’ and insisting the treatment of one of sport’s greatest performers was a disgrace. 

Allan pointed the finger of blame at tennis boss Craig Tiley (pictured), after it emerged he was twice warned that evidence of prior Covid infection was not sufficient for border exemption 

Victoria premier Jacinta Allan, whose state granted Djokovic a medical exemption, said that only permits him to play in the tournament – not enter the country

How Australian authorities have handballed responsibility over the Djokovic visa saga 

Victorian acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford says: 

‘The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam. 

‘We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.’ 

Home Affairs Minister Jaren Andrews says:

‘The ABF did not request Victorian government support for a visa. The ABF reached out to the Victorian government to validate their public statements about their support for Mr Djokovic’s entry, and whether Victoria had further information related to his medical exemption documentation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says:

‘Tennis Australia, as I understand, said that he could play and that is fine, that is their call. But we make the call on the border and that is where it is enforced.

‘I am unaware of the Victorian government position on whether they were prepared to allow him to not have to quarantine or not.’

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley says:

‘The Commonwealth lets you into the country. Tennis Australia, in partership with the state, lets you into the tournament… Someone issued Novak Djokovic a visa, and it wasn’t the Victorian government.

‘I’m not blaming the Commonwealth for anything. All I’m saying is there is a two-step process to get into the country… You get into the country, that’s the Commonwealth of Australia’s responsibility. 

Novak Djokovic’s brother Djordje says:

‘He had the same document as several tennis players who are already in Australia. Novak and his team had no way of contacting federal authorities. The only way to make contact was via Tennis Australia. Novak didn’t apply, Tennis Australia did.’ 


His family complained about the hotel as around 300 fans held a rally in front of the country’s parliament building in the capital Belgrade,

‘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,’ Djokovic’s mother Dijana said in a press conference.

His father Srdjan promised the crowd the protests would be held every day until Djokovic was released. 

Nearer to home, former Davis Cup player Paul McNamee who ran the Australian Open from 1995 until 2006 as tournament director, joined those who think the 34-year-old deserved his day on court, not in court.

‘It’s not fair. The guy played by the rules, he got his visa, he arrives, he’s a nine-time champion and whether people like it or not he’s entitled to fair play,’ McNamee told ABC News.

‘There’s no doubt there’s some disconnect between the state and the federal government. I hate to think politics are involved but it feels that way.’

Djokovic, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has garnered headlines in recent years for his stance on Covid vaccines that has enhanced his reputation as a polorising figure.

He first spoke out against vaccination back in April 2020, when the first wave of Covid was spreading and before a jab had even been developed, to say he was not in favour of getting one.

Further controversy came in June when he hosted a Balkans tennis tournament with no mask wearing or social distancing measures in place that led to several players – including himself – getting infected with Covid.

As vaccines were rolled out last year and travel rules relaxed for those who had taken the jab, Djokovic remained silent about his own status – leading many to suspect he had not been jabbed and would not be allowed to play at the Australian Open.

But come December, his name was announced on lists for both the Open and the warm-up ATP Cup – with Tennis Australia revealing earlier this month that he had been granted a medical exemption. 

Srdjan and Diana Djokovic, the tennis star’s parents, have been leading protests in his native Serbia against the decision – calling it politically motivated

Protests erupted outside the detention hotel where Novak is being held

That prompted a furious backlash from Australians who have been suffering under some of the world’s strictest virus control measures for two years, including tight border rules and bans for the unvaccinated.

Amid the furor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled at the airport and he would be sent home.

While the decision delighted Djokovic’s critics and many ordinary Australians, it also sparked recriminations for Mr Morrison, finger-pointing between the bodies involved, and allegations of political grandstanding.

Djokovic’s father insists he’s being ‘kept in captivity… to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people’ in a fiery speech which also likened the sportsman to Jesus.

‘Jesus was crucified on the cross … but he is still alive among us,’ Srdjan said. ‘They are trying to crucify and belittle Novak and throw him to his knees.’

The comments came as Djokovic’s parents slammed ‘idiot’ Australian officials for detaining him in a refugee hotel as a bitter war of words erupted after the tennis star had his visa cancelled.

Srdjan railed against his ‘imprisonment’ saying he is the victim of a ‘political attack’, having been made a ‘scapegoat’ of Australia’s harsh vaccine rules.

He called on Serbians and people all around the world to ‘rise up’ and challenge the politicians and border agents who want to ‘humiliate’ their sporting star.

How has the Djokovic saga unfolded since the pandemic began? 

Less than six weeks after Covid was first declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, Novak Djokovic took part in an April 2020 Facebook live stream with fellow Serbian athletes to express his doubts over vaccines.

A vaccination against Covid had not yet even been created, and yet Djokovic was already telling his fans he was ‘opposed to vaccination and wouldn’t want to be forced to take a vaccine in order to travel’. 

‘My job requires lots of travel. Some are saying that, for us who travel, we would have to take the vaccine that is yet to be developed. Therefore, I would like to repeat and point out that at this moment, we do not have adequate information,’ he said.

‘I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body. I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.’

By June of the same year, Djokovic had tested positive to Covid, along with at least four of his colleagues.

He’d been playing an exhibition tournament that he organised in the Balkan region with limited health and safety protocols.

‘I am so deeply sorry our tournament caused harm. Everything the organisers and I did the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions… We were wrong and it was too soon. I can’t express how sorry I am for this and every case of infection,’ he said in a statement.

Even after his apology, Djokovic refused to reveal his vaccination status, describing it as his private medical information.

The Australian Open is the first competition since vaccines became available that has mandated the jab. 

It will be clearer come Monday whether Djokovic will be free to contest the title for a 10th year. 

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