Former coach Boris Becker admits Novak Djokovic will be booed and whistled by Australian Open fans if he defends his title next week – but says the Serbian ‘street-fighter’ won’t mind and backs his refusal to be vaccinated
Djokovic’s participation is still in limbo as he awaits a verdict from Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke, who is considering whether to cancel his visa despite the Serbian’s court victory on Monday.
While Serbian fans celebrated outside the courthouse on Monday, many Australians, who have endured months of hard lockdowns, remain angry at the current decision to allow the unvaccinated Djokovic to enter the country.
Becker, who coached Djokovic for three seasons from 2014 to 2016, told the BBC: ‘I’m sure there will be a couple of boos and whistles, but he’s used to that.
‘He was always a street-fighter who had to fight the odds and win over the crowd, and it was fascinating in last year’s US Open final when they finally embraced him.
‘The crowd will be difficult with him but with each match he starts he will win the crowd and they will embrace him again. But he is going to have a difficult first week.’
Boris Becker (left) has warned Novak Djokovic (right) he risks the wrath of an Australian crowd
Djokovic is still in limbo as Australia’s immigration minister refuses to rule out cancelling his visa – but posted this picture of himself practicing at Rod Laver Arena just hours after he was finally released from detention after a five-day-long ordeal
While expressing his full support for Djokovic’s stance, Becker admitted he was concerned at the prospect of similar problems in the future, and reiterated his belief that the world No 1 should accept a vaccine.
‘I’m sure the French Open and Wimbledon will be watching the Melbourne saga, and I’m sure they will have strict rules on who can play and who cannot play,’ Becker added.
‘It’s everybody’s choice but life is more difficult if you don’t want to be vaccinated. Personally I’d advise him to be vaccinated eventually because life would be easier for him, but ultimately it’s his choice and we have to respect that.’
Becker did praise Djokovic as a ‘street-fighter’ and said he could cope with the boos
The Australian Border Force is investigating whether the Australian Open champion made a false declaration claiming he had not travelled in the 14 days leading up to his arrival in Melbourne.
All travellers arriving in Australia are asked if they have ‘travelled or will travel in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia’.
They are also warned: ‘Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information.’
Djokovic ticked ‘No’ in response to the question, however that appears to be in direct conflict with the timeline of his recent movements documented on social media.
According to his sworn affidavit, Djokovic departed Spain on January 4 and had a stopover in Dubai before landing in Melbourne late on the night of January 5.
The timings mean Djokovic would have had to be in Spain from 11.30pm on December 22 Australian Eastern Daylight Time, or 1.30pm Spanish time to comply with the rules not to travel within two weeks of arriving in Australia, the Herald Sun reported.
But social media posts show Djokovic playing tennis in the streets of Belgrade on December 25 while another post shared on the same day by Serbian handball star Petar Djordjic shows him posing with the tennis star.
‘ONE AND ONLY !!!!! Thank you for the picture and for the nice wishes,’ Djordjic captioned the photo.
Six days later on New Years Eve, footage emerged of Djokovic having a hit out on the tennis court in south-east Spain.
The document was released by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia on Monday. In an affidavit Djokovic submitted to the court, he said he ‘authorised’ his agent to submit the travel declaration form.
Djokovic claimed on his entry form that he had not travelled in the 14 days leading up to his arrival in Melbourne shortly before midnight on January 5 after flying in from Spain
DECEMBER 25, SERBIA: A photo uploaded to Twitter on Christmas Day shows Djokovic with handball player Petar Djordjic in Belgrade
DECEMBER 31, SPAIN : Video uploaded by a tennis training academy on New Year’s Eve purports to show Djokovic training in Marbella
A number of fellow players have expressed concerns over Djokovic’s potential exemption, although Rafael Nadal offered belated support for the decision on Monday, having previously intimated it was wrong for his great rival to seek to enter Australia.
Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marton Fucsovics provided a glimpse of the mood in the locker room by saying he does not think the Serbian had the right to play in the tournament.
Speaking to the Hungarian outlet M4Sport, Fucsovics said: ‘People’s health is paramount, and there are rules that were outlined months ago, namely that everyone should vaccinate themselves – and Djokovic didn’t.
‘From this point of view, I don’t think he would have the right to be here.’
World No 1 Djokovic is looking for a record 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne next week
The Hungarian world No 38, who lost to Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals and in the Paris Masters in November, also said he was not alone in thinking it unfair that Djokovic could play in the gram slam event despite not being vaccinated.
The 29-year-old said news of the world No 1’s exemption had received a negative reception among many tennis players.
Djokovic has returned to training in Melbourne while Minister Hawke considers whether to invoke extraordinary powers to send the Serbian home.
The star still has questions to answer, such as why he was pictured at a series of public engagements in the days following his second positive coronavirus test on December 16.
An attempt to broach the subject during a news conference staged by the Djokovic family in Belgrade on Monday was ignored.
There were jubilant scenes on the streets on Melbourne on Monday night after Djokovic was freed from immigration detention
Meanwhile, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has spoken with his Serbian counterpart about Djokovic’s situation and explained Australia’s ‘non-discriminatory border policy’.
‘The PM had a constructive call with PM Brnabic this morning on Novak Djokovic,’ a statement from the Australian Prime Minister’s Office read.
‘The PM explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘They both agreed to stay in contact on the issue, and to further strengthening the bilateral relationship.’
Former Australia cricketer Shane Warne branded his country’s handling of the affair as a ‘shambles’ but insisted it was their right to refuse entry.
Warne told the BBC: ‘It just seems an absolute, embarrassing mess.
‘Novak is well entitled not to be jabbed or to be jabbed, but it is also Australia’s choice to not let him in or to let him in.
‘I don’t know what’s actually going on here. It’s a shambles and bit embarrassing.’