Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Sunday that Australian authorities “think they have humiliated Djokovic” but “humiliated themselves”.
Addressing journalists, Vučić said he had spoken to and encouraged Novak Djokovic after judges in Australia on Sunday rejected the player’s challenge to reverse his visa cancellation for a second time.
“I spoke to Djokovic shortly after the decision was made. I encouraged him and let him know that we are all waiting for his return to Serbia, his home country, where he is always welcome. Those people who tried to show [the world] that they are so principled have in fact demonstrated the exact opposite,” said Vučić.
Vučić went on to criticize the way Djokovic was treated by the Australian media and authorities, calling it a “witch hunt” against the tennis star and Serbia.
“You harass the best tennis player in the world for ten, eleven days and on the eleventh day you pass on the decision you’ve always wanted to make from day one,” said Vučić.
“If you had said that an unvaccinated person cannot enter Australia, Djokovic would not have come or would have been vaccinated. But you left the door open to medical exemption, so he got one and came up with this status. He did everything that was asked of him and then the harassment started, followed by an unprecedented media lynching,” he added.
“There has been a literal witch hunt against one person and one country because they wanted to show Novak Djokovic how the world order works and how to treat anyone they choose that way,” the president said.
Vučić also accused the prosecutor of “lying”, saying that he underestimated the proportion of the Serbian population that has been vaccinated against Covid-19. According to official data, 58% of the adult population in Serbia is vaccinated.
Vučić added that Serbia would give Australian athletes an “incomparably better” welcome in March when the World Indoor Athletics Championships take place in Belgrade.
“They will come to the athletics championship and we will show the Australian government how much better we are,” he said.
Vučić then thanked those in Australia who have supported the tennis star: “I thank the Australian people, who I am sure the Serbian people respect as much as we respect the Australian people.”
Vučić concluded: “They think they have humiliated Djokovic with this ten-day intimidation. They have only humiliated themselves and Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high.”