Crowds gathered at the airport to welcome the 34-year-old Serb, chanting his name and holding banners and flags in support of him on Monday. The night before, a building in Belgrade was lit up with the words “Nol [Djokovic’s nickname]You are the pride of Serbia.”
The Serbian Olympic Committee said it was “extremely disappointed” at Australia’s “scandalous decision” to deport Djokovic, adding that a “great injustice” had been done, while Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the visa cancellation was “egregious”.
“I am disappointed and I think it showed how the rule of law works in some other countries, that is, how it does not work,” Brnabic said in an interview with the Beta news agency in Belgrade.
“I look forward to seeing Djokovic in his country, in Serbia, going through this with him and giving him our support at this difficult time for him,” she added.
Under Australian law, Djokovic can be barred from entering the country for three years, although Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has not ruled out an exemption. “Any application will be reviewed based on its merits,” she said.
The Australian Open is the first major tournament of the tennis season. The second is the French Open at Roland Garros, which takes place between May 22 and June 5.
But the French sports ministry told CNN Monday that all professional athletes who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The French Vaccine Passage Act, approved by Parliament on Sunday, will require people to obtain a vaccine certificate to enter public places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and sports arenas, among other things.
“The rule is simple. A vaccine permit will be required once the law enters into force in institutions that were already subject to a health permit (sports or cultural). This applies to everyone (spectators and professional athletes),” a French sports ministry spokeswoman told CNN.
This new legislation puts Djokovic’s chances of competing in the French Open, who has not been vaccinated against Covid-19, at risk.
The French Open previously allowed unvaccinated players to compete as they worked in a bubble around the tournament.
On Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he would also have to comply with Spanish health rules to compete in the upcoming Madrid Open, which kicks off in late April.
Sanchez praised Australia’s decision to extradite Djokovic, saying he “fully respects the Australian government’s decision”.
Spain currently requires visitors to show proof of complete vaccination, a recent negative Covid test within 72 hours prior to arrival or a Covid-19 recovery certificate, according to the health ministry.
A senior government official told CNN Monday that international sporting events in the country may add additional rules for participants such as testing for Covid-19 on a daily basis during the tournament.
Djokovic is the men’s singles champion on clay for Roland Garros. Together with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he won 20 Grand Slam titles.
“For Roland Garros, it is in May. The situation may change by then and hopefully it will be more favorable. So we will see but now it is clear that it is only [from the rules]She added.
Al Goodman, Joseph Attaman, Alex Klusuk, Sharon Braithwaite, Biljana Press and Stephanie Halas contributed to this report.