‘Place went silent with everyone staring’: Awkward arrival as peers give Novak Djokovic cold shoulder

Defending champion Novak Djokovic changes his shirt during a practice session at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

Fellow tennis players have given Novak Djokovic the cold shoulder as Australian Border officials investigate whether the world No.1 lied on his Travel Declaration Form.

Despite his uncertain future in Australia which is set to come to a head in the coming days, the Serbian star didn’t let that get in the way of his preparation for the Australian Open next week.

Djokovic received the star treatment at Melbourne Park, with centre court doors locked and cameras deactivated as the top-ranked men’s player practiced.

Before hitting the court, Djokovic reportedly spent time in a gym at Melbourne Park HQ, with several other players in attendance.

A source in the Australian Open player area told tennis writer Ben Rothenberg: “[Djokovic] came to the gym before his hit. The place went silent with everyone staring. Talk about uncomfortable.”

While Djokovic has some support from players, there was an awkward feeling among others at Melbourne Park, according to Rothenberg.

Djokovic posted to social media on Tuesday, saying the drama involving his entry into the country is behind him.

“Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen. I remain focused on that,” Djokovic tweeted in the early hours of Tuesday. “I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”

But he still faces the prospect of deportation before the first match.

Djokovic was given an exemption by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organiser, from its vaccination rules to compete because he was infected with COVID-19 last month. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.

But federal border authorities stopped him on arrival last week and cancelled his visa. Lawyers for the government have said an infection in the previous six months was only grounds for an exemption in cases in which the coronavirus caused severe illness.

The prime ministers of Australia and Serbia have discussed Novak Djokovics precarious visa after the top-ranked Serbian tennis star won a court battle to compete in the Australian Open but still faces the threat of deportation because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. (Kelly Defina/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

It’s not clear why Djokovic was ever granted a visa if that’s the case.

A federal judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa Monday on procedural grounds, saying he hadn’t been allowed enough time to speak to his lawyers to contest the decision. But Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still considering using his power to deport the 34-year-old Serbian under separate legislation.

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