Even Some Players Critical of Novak Djokovic Are Not Pleased With Process in Australia

Some players who are critical of tennis player Novak Djokovic are not pleased with the process in Australia regarding Djokovic's rejected medical exemption for not taking the COVID vaccine.

"Look, I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum's health, but how we are handling Novak's situation is bad, really bad," Nick Kyrgios, an Australian player and critic of some of Djokovic's stance on vaccinations, posted on Twitter. "...This is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better."

Other players have also sympathized with Djokovic's situation, while others have said if he was vaccinated, there wouldn't have been any drama.

Djokovic, 34, who is the top men's tennis player in the world, has been restricted from leaving a detention hotel in Melbourne with a court hearing set for Monday, a week before the beginning of the Australian Open.

Djokovic received a medical exemption for the COVID vaccine backed by Australia's tennis federation and approved by the Victoria state government before flying to Australia. The reasoning for the exemption has yet to be provided. However, the Australian government said it was invalid when he arrived at Melbourne airport.

Australia's COVID rules require travelers coming to the country to have two shots of an approved vaccine or have an exemption with a genuine medical reason, like an acute condition, to not quarantine. To enter the tournament venue, all players, staff, officials, and fans are required to be fully vaccinated.

Novak Djokovic, Rejected Medical Exemption, Australian Open
In this photo, a Novak Djokovic supporter displays anti-vaccination signage as they gather outside Park Hotel where Djokovic was taken pending his removal from the country after his visa was canceled by the Australian Border Force on Jan. 6, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. Djokovick, 34, who is the top men’s tennis player in the world, has been restricted from leaving a detention hotel in Melbourne Diego Fedele/Getty Images

Djokovic, spent Orthodox Christmas in an immigration detention hotel in Australia on Friday as he sought to fend off deportation over the country's COVID-19 rules and compete in the Australian Open.

Djokovic received calls from his native Serbia, including from his parents and the president, who hoped to boost his spirits on the holiday.

On Instagram, he posted: "Thank you to the people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated."

During the day, Djokovic's supporters, waving banners, gathered outside the Park Hotel, used to house refugees and asylum-seekers.

A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne asked to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate Orthodox Christmas but was turned down by immigration officials because the hotel is under lockdown.

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

The Australian Border Force said Friday that after further investigations into two other people connected to the Australian Open, one voluntarily left the country and another was taken into detention pending deportation.

The Czech Embassy identified one of them as 38-year-old doubles player Renata Voráčová and said she won't play in the tournament.

The dispute has become a touchy topic in a city where residents spent 256 days in 2020-21 under severe restrictions on their movement. Djokovic's exemption stirred allegations the star athlete got special treatment.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said earlier this week that 26 people connected with the tournament applied for medical exemptions and only a "handful" were granted. Three of those have since been challenged.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.