'God bless you Novak': Serbia welcomes back Djokovic after Australian visa row

17 January 2022, 14:19 | Updated: 17 January 2022, 14:27

Djokovic a been welcomed back in Serbia after Australia visa row
Djokovic a been welcomed back in Serbia after Australia visa row. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Serbia has welcomed back tennis star Novak Djokovic after he was deported from Australia, following a visa row over his vaccination status.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The tennis star was prevented from defending his Australian Open tennis title after is was argued that he had been held up as a hero by the anti-vaccine movement.

A plane carrying the number one ranked player touched down in the capital Belgrade on Monday, to only a handful of fans waving the Serbian flag, despite many predicting a hero's welcome.

"God bless you Novak" read one of the banners held by the fans at the airport as he was whisked through passport control and customs and then driven by his brother Djordje to his apartment in Belgrade.

There is uncertainty over what will come next for the player ahead of the French Open, which is the next Grand Slam, in late May.

French official have said a new law requiring vaccination to enter sports venues, restaurants and other public places, would have no exceptions.

Read more: Brit tsunami victim died on Tongan beach trying to save her dogs, brother reveals

Read more: Sir Keir fights back over Partygate: Tories are trying to drag us ‘into the gutter’

Mr Djokovic had argued that he was exempt from strict Australian vaccination rules because he had recently recovered from Covid-19.

But once he arrived in the country, Australian authorities said that exemption was not valid.

They eventually cited the public interest and revoked his visa, saying his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiment and that kicking him out was necessary to keep Australians safe.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of "harassing" the top-ranked tennis star and urged him to return home.

The legal battle over whether Djokovic held a valid exemption to vaccine rules that would allow him to play in the Australian Open ended on Sunday with his deportation.

Read more: Britain to be hit by freezing fog and two days of travel chaos, Met Office warns

Read more: Two teens held in Manchester after Brit hostage taker killed by FBI in Texas synagogue

Vaccination amid the pandemic is a requirement for anyone at the Australian Open, which started on Monday in Melbourne.

Djokovic has almost an iconic status in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia "a farce with a lot of lies".

"Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here," said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident.

"They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride."

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

US President Joe Biden visits Seoul National Cemetery in Seoul

Joe Biden and South Korea consult on how to deal with North Korea

Dozens of people were hurt as the tornado struck parts of central Germany

Dozens injured as tornado brings winds of 80mph to central Germany

The Boeing Starliner approaching the International Space Station

Boeing docks crew capsule to space station for first time

The European outbreak of monkeypox has been linked to an adult sauna in Madrid. The UKHSA identified 11 more cases yesterday

Monkeypox outbreak linked to superspreader event at adult sauna

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australians vote to determine conservative government future

Damage is seen at a home after a tornado came through the area in Gaylord, Michigan

Rare northern Michigan tornado kills one person and injures more than 40

Liz Truss has announced her intentions to arm Moldova to defend against Putin

I want to send weapons to Moldova to guard against Putin, says Truss

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's libel trial has continued for another day

Johnny Depp's allegations stopped Amber Heard from getting really famous, says agent

Aimee Osbourne Studio Fire

Ozzy Osbourne’s daughter Aimee escapes deadly Hollywood fire

Germany Weather

Dozens injured after tornado smashes into German city

France Cannes 2022 Three Thousand Years of Longing Red Carpet

Woman strips off in Cannes red carpet protest

Russia Ukraine Mariupol

Russian forces ‘take full control of Mariupol steel plant’

A fire has broken out near Geneva Airport

Huge fire and 'explosions' at asylum seeker centre near Geneva Airport

Kharkiv scenes

Ukraine says it repels attack in east as Russian troops struggle to gain ground

The gold Mycenaean-era ring

Ancient gold ring back in Greece after string of adventures


Stanley Johnson 'absolutely delighted' as his French citizenship is approved