Novak Djokovic has been left scarred by his “unjust” deportation from Australia but will not quit tennis as a result, his long-time coach has said.
Marian Vajdan condemned the Australian government’s decision to throw Djokovic out of the country this week and also denounced an announcement by their French counterparts soon after that could see the world No 1 banned from defending another of his grand-slam titles.
Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which saw him blocked from playing at the Australian Open, has cast major doubt on his quest to end his career as the most decorated player of all time.
But Vajda, who has coached the Serb for most of that career, told Slovakian outlet aktuality.sk: “I know him very well. Novak is strong, resolute and has not yet said his last word in tennis.”
Revealing the pair had been in touch while Djokovic was being held in immigration detention in Australia, Vajda said: “We wrote to each other; we never spoke on the phone. I can’t imagine how he handled it; it must have been a huge suffering. He humbly endured all measures, but what they did to him must mark him. It was a political process.”
Djokovic was deported after three judges at the Federal Court of Australia decided on Sunday it was not unreasonable of the country’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to conclude the player held anti-vaxx views and that his ongoing presence could negatively impact public health.
'It will hurt him for a long time'
But Vajda said: “It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that had not yet happened.
“I haven’t communicated with him since he arrived in Belgrade. It is clear that it hit him mentally. It will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head.”
The French government this week imposed new rules stating that professional sportspeople playing in the country must be vaccinated, with politicians there confirming Djokovic would need to get jabbed to defend his French Open title in May.
Vajda said: “I don’t understand why it’s important for them to announce this now about the tournaments that will take place in May, when the world doesn’t even know what will happen to the pandemic in a month.
“I do not want to underestimate the whole situation. It is serious in the world, but what is the purpose of discussing it now in January?”
Australian chief justice reveals why he rejected Djokovic's appeal
By Simon Briggs, in Melbourne
Giving his first interview since the deportation of world No 1 Novak Djokovic, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley insisted that he would not be resigning.
Tiley’s position has come under heavy scrutiny, especially after Melbourne’s newspapers made allegations overnight that Tennis Australia had covered Djokovic’s legal bills through the whole visa affair.
But Tiley issued a flat denial to these claims, saying: “We don’t really go into detail of any financial arrangement that we have with the players, but those reports are simply untrue.”
Although Tiley was keen to talk about tennis, and “how well the Aussies have done today”, the Djokovic saga continues to bubble away. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Djokovic is considering a £3.2 million legal suit against the Australian government for “ill-treatment”.
Meanwhile, the Australian legal system has confirmed why it rejected Novak Djokovic’s appeal against deportation on Sunday. In essence, chief justice Allsop ruled that it was reasonable to consider him an anti-vaxxer.
“Mr Djokovic had for over a year chosen not to be vaccinated since vaccines became available,” Allsop pointed out. “It was plainly open to the Minister to infer that Mr Djokovic had chosen not to be vaccinated because he was opposed to vaccination.”
Allsop’s explanation runs to 31 pages and more than 11,000 words, which may explain why it has taken four days to be published.
Civil rights campaigners immediately expressed concern at the implications of the verdict 0 namely, that someone who held lawful yet controversial views could be deported for being a theoretical risk to “good order”.
In fact, it seems likely that the Djokovic case will be used as a legal precedent in future, reinforcing the Australian government’s power to expel those it deems undesirable from the country. One chilling sentence in Allsop’s verdict pointed out that, “there was no requirement upon the minister to afford Mr Djokovic natural justice”.
One more issue is rumbling away here: the fact that players at the Australian Open are recommended - but not obliged - to take a daily Covid test.
After world No 3, Alexander Zverev, said on Wednesday night that “we are not getting tested”, Britain’s Heather Watson - who lost on Thursday to 29th seed Tamara Zidansek - admitted that she had also not been tested since her warm-up event in Adelaide a fortnight ago.
Again, Tiley defended TA’s position. “We came up with a set of protocols that were more rigorous than what they have normally been during their week in, week out travels,” he told host broadcaster Channel 9. “Coming into Australia, every single player had to do a test, then between day five and seven they had to do a test... There is mandatory symptomatic testing and every single player is provided each day with an antigen kit. So far it has worked well.”