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Detention, political grub and Spartacus… Can Djoko still save his image?

The scene has something lunar about it. On Thursday, from the Park Hotel in Melbourne, at 701 Swanson Street, where he has been detained since leaving the airport, Novak Djokovic appeared at the window to give the first sign of life to his Serbian fans who had come to support him. Hands joined in prayer, a heart with fingers and big poutous sent to the crowd, the world number 1 greets his supporters, as a prisoner deprived of a visiting room would kiss his wife, from afar, through the bars of his cell. .

This image of a Djoko locked up in a hotel reserved for the reception of refugees and asylum seekers – and with culinary practices that are said to be closer to Fleury-Mérogis than to Georges V – would (almost) be enough to tear us away a little teardrop. A shame for the one who, 24 hours ago, had become public enemy number 1 after his Instagram post announcing, all smiles, his coming to the Australian Open despite his non-vaccination against Covid-19, in a country that has been bleeding for two years to limit the spread of the virus.

But that was before. Before he was denied access to Australian territory by border police, despite the medical exemption validated by the Australian Open shortly before. “He was held at the airport for a whole night, isolated in a room guarded by police without even the right to have his phone with him, it’s incredible. No one can be treated this way! “, protests Saša Ozmo, journalist for the Serbian media Sportklub. So, could the unfriendly way in which Djoko is treated by the Australian authorities be likely to alleviate the mixed feelings of the general public towards him? This is the bet made by his father, Srdjan, who jumped at the chance to make the son a martyr of the cause. Which ? We can not say too much, however.

Spartacus, Jesus, and so on and the best

“My son is in captivity tonight in Australia but he has never been so free. Novak has become the symbol and leader of the free world, the world of poor and disadvantaged nations and peoples, he told the Serbian newspaper. Telegraf, Wednesday evening, in its usual verve. We can imprison him tonight, we can chain him tomorrow, but the truth is like water and it always finds its way. Novak is the Spartacus of the new world who does not tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy, but fights for the equality of all people on the planet, regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of the God they pray and the money they have”. Take that, Martin Luther King! Since then, the Djoko clan has decided to exploit the vein to the end, going so far as to call a press conference on Thursday, during which Djoko was this time compared to Jesus. himself.

Viktor Troicki, like the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, has since joined the ranks of the revolution, explaining to our colleagues The Team that “no athlete (…) has ever been treated in this way, tortured in some way”. For the coach of the Serbian Davis Cup team, this “huge scandal has nothing to do with tennis or sport, it’s just politics. The Australian federal government has decided to show its power and set an example. It must be admitted that this affair smacks of national political grub, a few months before the federal election, between a federal government politically on the right and the State of Victoria in the hands of the left.

By going in the direction of Australian public opinion, outraged to see a privilege granted to an unvaccinated person when the latter had to undergo severe health restrictions since the start of the pandemic (Melbourne, in particular, experienced 6 confinements since the beginning of 2020), Prime Minister Scott Morrison is accused by pros-Novak of wanting to pay the star cheaply for electoral purposes.

Ultra-light documentation according to the Australian press

The ultimate proof, according to Troicki (and the whole Djokovic clan)? The fact that “three [autres] players who had the same exemption as him were able to enter the country, which he was banned from”. The problem, according to The Age, the best-informed national daily on the subject, is that the Serb would have traveled hyperlight from the point of view of the documentation supposed to justify his medical waiver. The latter would indeed have provided only meager medical proof of his previous Covid infection issued by a single doctor, when the other wags finally authorized to enter Australian soil had the support of several doctors.

However, according to the Franco-Australian journalist Christophe Mallet, stationed in Melbourne for eighteen years, the authorities of the country do not trifle with the administration, even less in times of pandemic. “Exemptions to enter or leave the territory are very complicated to obtain, he tells us. A very good friend of mine asked for one to go to his mother’s bedside in Switzerland, who had just had a stroke. It was refused, he appealed, again refused. Well, that shows the violence of the restrictions that we have experienced in the past two years. »

A Djoker fan was present at Melbourne airport to support his idol, blocked by border police overnight.
A Djoker fan was present at Melbourne airport to support his idol, blocked by border police overnight. – Hamish Blair/AP/SIPA

Truncated preparation, icy welcome, Djoko is (perhaps) not at the end of his troubles

For the time being, it is impossible to say whether the treatment inflicted on the man with the twenty grand slams will allow him to leave this soap opera with less dirty buttocks than expected. Mocked for his response from Normand when a journalist questioned him on the subject at a press conference, Daniil Medvedev is nevertheless the one who best summed up this merry mess: “If his exemption was justified and in order, then he has the right to be there. Otherwise, he has no right”. Indeed, everything will depend on the decision of the judges to grant or not a visa to the player. They will deliver their verdict next Monday, around 10 a.m. If we learn that Djoko had scrupulously respected the process and provided all the necessary documentation, then it will be time to let go of his rind and blame it on the amateurishness of the Australian authorities.

What we are sure of, if this happens, is that the preparation of the player will suffer the consequences, he who is however seeking the world record for the most major titles against Nadal and Federer (20 each for the moment). A night in an airport closet, four nights at the Park Hotel without the possibility of training, you have to admit that there is better way to prepare for such an event… And what about the welcome that will reserve the Australian public for him, he who would have gladly sent him back to Belgrade with a stroke of the pump on the train? “It must not turn into a provax / antivax fight, Serbs vs Australians, breathes Christophe Mallet. What is certain is that we risk witnessing scenes that we do not want to see. In addition, the slogan of the tournament this year was “United by play”, united by the game, for the game, it’s sadly ironic…”

Moreover, let the Djoker be reassured, this politico-sporting imbroglio will have little chance of (re) occurring at Roland-Garros. According The Parisian, the French government would have decided to avoid such a mess by authorizing the non-vaccinated to play certain major events such as the Champions League or the Parisian ocher tournament if they respected a strict health bubble. Which will not fail to make scream in the French cottages either, but it is not the debate of the day. One controversy at a time, please.

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