Manchester United’s Serbian star Nemanja Matic has castigated Australian authorities for deporting his compatriot Novak Djokovic.
The Djokovic saga finally reached its conclusion on Sunday after the world No. 1’s last-ditch visa appeal was rejected on the eve of the Australian Open.
A seesaw case had seen his initial visa cancelled despite a medical exemption, re-approved by a judge, then revoked again by Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke. His legal team managed to get a second appeal into court but Djokovic lost.
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Djokovic had stoked fury Down Under and across the world after pitching up unvaccinated for the opening Grand Slam of 2022.
He also blamed an “error in judgment” for breaching isolation rules in December after attending an interview with a known Covid infection.
Djokovic has a staunch legion of supporters, particularly in his homeland, with Matic telling him on Instagram: “Your glory and their shame will live forever.”
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Matic previously defended Djokovic after he was slammed for hosting the controversial Adria Tour in 2020.
The midfielder's stinging rebuke of Australian officials followed that of Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic, who likened the treatment of Djokovic to torture.
"For 10 days they were tormenting - dare to say even torturing because it was not only intellectual, but physical torture - against Novak Djokovic,” he said.
"And there was something else which was even worse, that was a witch hunt organised against Djokovic – a guy, just not to forget it, who won nine times the Australian Open title and that was totally unnecessary. "
'This was his big chance' - Wilander
Eurosport tennis expert Mats Wilander believes the decision could have serious consequences for Djokovic, suggesting he may not win another major in his career.
Djokovic was bidding to win a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, pulling him clear of foes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Instead, he will now be watching from home and hoping that Nadal does not triumph in his absence.
"The judge has to realise that maybe he is changing the history of our sport – but what can you do?" said Wilander.
"I cannot imagine the state of mind Novak must be in right now plus it’s by far his most favourite tournament – one he has won nine times – he’s chasing 21 Grand Slams and this was his big chance to go ahead of Roger and Rafa.
"To me, now there is a good chance all three will end up on 20 Grand Slams which will be amazing."
The Australian Open begins on Monday.
‘This was a witch hunt’ - Serbia president on Djokovic row
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