World No 1 Novak Djokovic on Friday broke his silence and thanked people around the world for their support amid a visa row over Covid-19 vaccines ahead of this month's Australian Open.
Djokovic in his Instagram post on Tuesday said that he will be travelling to Australia with an 'exemption permission'. But he was denied entry upon landing in Melbourne late on Wednesday and authorities cancelled his visa. The player's lawyers then launched an appeal seeking to overturn the federal government decision, with a court agreeing not to deport him before a full hearing scheduled for Monday.
The 34-year-old is currently held in isolation at the Park Hotel in Carlton, Melbourne, awaiting the outcome of an appeal against the decision by the Australian Border Force (ABF) to cancel his entry visa and deport him. The appeal is set to be heard on Monday, a sky sports report said.
The reigning Australian Open champion has now broken his silence via Instagram.
"Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated," Djokovic wrote in his Instagram story.
"Thank you to my family, Serbia, and all good people across the world who are sending me support. Thanks to dear God for health," he added in Serbian.
Notably, the star player has never revealed whether he is vaccinated against Covid-19, but has criticised mandates ruling that players must be double-jabbed.
Meanwhile, Australia Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews maintained Djokovic was not being detained under any duress in the country.
"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. We treat all people who are in immigration detention fairly, equitably," Andrews told ABC.
"A visa was granted for entry, but that does not guarantee entry. He (Djokovic), along with any other individual who is seeking to enter Australia, also has to meet the entry requirements which at this point includes medical evidence of vaccination or alternatively medical reasons why that individual cannot be vaccinated.
"He 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.
With his record nine titles, Djokovic is the most successful player in the history of the Australian Open. He is also in a three-way tie on 20 career Grand Slams titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.