Novak Djokovic is hurting over the deportation saga and believes the Australian government ‘humiliated’ him on a world stage.
The World No 1 player was not allowed to defend his Australian Open title earlier this year.
While the Grand Slam had a vaccination mandate, the Serb was given a medical exemption on the grounds that he had contracted the virus as recently as December.
But the Australian government decided to cancel his visa and deport him on the eve of the tournament.
“I was painted in a really ugly manner. I was humiliated, if I may say so, on a world stage,” Djokovic told Serbian publication Sport Klub.
“I’ve done everything that was asked of me. There is belief that I was privileged in a way, that I (got the exemption) because of my stature.
“I will keep saying this and repeat it like a parrot, although BBC has cut that part of the interview: ten days before me, a Czech tennis player and a Croatian coach entered Australia with the same medical exemption.
“She played a tournament, he coached his player, no problem at all. Suddenly I come and there is a problem. Why? You tell me.”
Djokovic also denied allegations that he had politicised the situation.
“For me, sport has always been above politics,” the 34-year-old added.
Some think that I politicized this whole situation, that I deliberately wanted to enter the country and attract attention. They think that I entered politics more than sports.
“But the opposite is true. I left because I am an athlete. I left even when [the Australian Open] is where I recorded my best results. I wanted to respect my colleagues, and that’s why I didn’t [speak] until it was over.”
The Serb has been heavily criticised by the western media for his anti-vax stand. Djokovic said that was the reason he chose to give the world exclusive interview to BBC.
“If I had called someone with whom I have a good relationship, they would have said, ‘Here he is, he set up an interview so that they don’t ask him anything, he runs away from embarrassing situations, he hides something’,” he said.
“That is the biggest reason why I called the BBC. Those who criticized me the most could come and ask me anything they wanted.”
Playing his first tournament of the season in Dubai, Djokovic went down to Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinal on Thursday.
The Serb’s 361-week reign at the top is thus set to end. He will be replaced by Daniil Medvedev as the World No 1 on Monday.