What was planned to be a fantastic year for the Serbian tennis star didn’t turn out as expected. Earlier this year, due to his disagreement with the Australian authorities regarding his non-vaccination decision, 20-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic was detained twice, leading to his stay in the infamous Park Hotel in Melbourne. However, his efforts were in vain; he was deported back to his country despite having fought a severe court case during the Australian Open.
His chances of being the first to touch the 21-grand slams mark were grabbed by the Spanish legend Rafael Nadal who shook those who witnessed his fantastic performance despite having just come back from an injury. Now, after two months, Djokovic finally competed in the Dubai Tennis Championship but went down in straight sets against Czech player Jiří Veselý.
Novak Djokovic speaks as a Park Hotel detainee
After returning to his homeland, Novak Djokovic gave an account of his detainment in Melbourne’s Park Hotel. Along with him, there was a fellow detainee by the name of Mehdi Ali, who had stayed in the hotel since he was 15. When asked if Djokovic had a chance to encounter him, the Serbian said, “As for Mehdi in particular, whom you mentioned, I know he’s active on social media as well – and I know who he is. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet him. I hope to have the opportunity to do that some day.”
As someone who knew the backlash of being detained in a foreign country, Djokovic knew the anxiety and stress that came along with the stay. “As I mentioned, I’ll really try to find a way to support them. I mean, just talking about them in public is already support and, in some way, shedding light on the problems they are going through,”
Novak Djokovic on refugee difficulties
With the Russia-Ukraine war escalating every moment, citizens of Ukraine try to escape to neighboring countries to avoid damage to themselves and their families. These people, however, can’t just go anywhere they want. They will be treated as refugees; being one can have both its pros and cons. Djokovic said, “At the same time, the situation is very complex – not just in Australia, but around the world – with refugees. I come from a country which has had a lot of refugees and wars in recent times, in the last 20-30 years, and the whole region has suffered a lot.”
He further said, “It’s something that hits me hard, of course, and I was shaken when I saw the circumstances which they have to go through and what they have to experience in life, [especially] such a young man. So, I really wish [the Park Hotel detainees] well and I will try my best, as I said. The whole thing is still so fresh and we’re trying to find a way to help them even more,”
As someone who came from a country that has seen and known every nook and corner of war, Djokovic sympathizes with those detained and those who enter a country as refugees.