“Whatever the Australian government and the media do to twist the narrative and bend the truth won’t stop the truth from coming out,” Srdjan Djokovic, the father of Novak Djokovic made clear on the other side of the phone call we had on the Orthodox Christians’ Christmas Day, Friday morning.
Novak had been denied religious service at the detention hotel with asylum seekers on Christmas day, his religious holiday. The explanation Office of the Bishop of the Australia and New Zealand were given was that it could not happen because of the pandemic.
The best tennis player in the world, who is one step of becoming the best athlete in the history of sports, is staying in a “filthy room,” and since he landed in Melbourne, all personal possessions, including his clothes, suitcases and wallet, have even been taken away from him.
For three nights now, Novak hasn’t been able to change his clothes, and he won’t be able to do so until Monday, the day of the expected ruling.
“They crucified Jesus, but he is still alive,” Srdjan Djokovic told me, speaking of the emotional and psychological torment his son and the rest of the family is going through, while the rest of the Western world is idly watching.
“First, my son Novak is not in detention. He is in prison. They took all of his possessions. They even took his wallet. Who knows what they are doing with his personal belongings. They can’t be trusted. They took his phone away for a few hours and then returned to him. Who knows what they did with this phone,” Srdjan shared his concern over the privacy violations against his son, Novak Djokovic.
“This is the end. We won’t tolerate this cruelty,” he said.
“Other tennis players had the same papers and were let in without any problem, all except for Novak. If they told him at the beginning this is the rule – If they said, ‘You can’t get in,’ we would say, ‘Okay, no problem.’ But to have him come there and then harass him and humiliate him is unacceptable,” said Srdjan Djokovic. “Who are they to dare to harass my son? You know what they are? They are human scum,” he told me.
After Novak’s father Srdjan Djokovic called for an impromptu press conference to get the truth out, the Australian government said that “Novak is not in captivity and can leave at any time,” but the information that Karen Andrews, Home Affairs Minister, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have omitted is that this would immediately bring a ban into effect that would prevent Novak from entering Australia for three years. That would effectively mean that he would not be able to compete in any future Australian Open, a tournament he’s won nine times.
“They are lying, shamelessly,” the father of Novak told me. “You can’t fight lies with lies. You can only fight lies with the truth,” Srdjan Djokovic shared.
“We are the ones who are speaking the truth all this time. They are lying. They tell utter lies,” Srdjan affirmed, evidently affected by his son’s mistreatment by one of the most powerful governments.
“PM Scott Morrison, his name says everything there is about him. In Serbian, Scott means cattle,” Srdjan declared.”Novak had the same form the other twenty-five tennis players who were let into the country had,” Novak’s father revealed, affirming what his youngest son Djordje Djokovic said already, that “Novak was the only one tennis player kept at the border.” Everything, the whole process, Srdjan confirmed, went through Tennis Australia.
“An Australian national sport is to hate Novak. Why is that? Because he showed them they are cowards. Novak did not let anyone break him down. He showed what it means when you have your integrity and courage and the guts to stand behind your words. And not to band and embrace the herd mentality. To jump in water when they tell you to jump in water. To jump in fire when they tell you to jump in fire for them. A handful of politicians in Australia are holding their citizens in imprisonment for two years. What kind of people are those? Novak revealed for the whole world to see them for who they are. That’s why they can’t stand him.”
Court filing document
The Australian government said that “Novak is not in captivity and can leave at any time,” but the information that Karen Andrews, Home Affairs Minister, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have omitted is that this would immediately bring a ban into effect that would prevent Novak from entering Australia for three years. That would effectively mean that he would not be able to compete in any future Australian Open, a tournament he’s won nine times.
Attacks on and name-calling of Novak came also from the tennis players who showed a lack of solidarity. Nadal’s uncle, Toni Nadal disparaged Novak calling him “Balkanac” which in Serbian is a pejorative term that means “the caveman.”
—How is Novak feeling? I asked his father. “How do you think he feels, Ksenija? They are keeping him in prison. They are keeping Novak in prison while they are having full mouths of democracy, justice, and speeches about the western liberal world order. Shame on them! They killed the liberal world. They’ve turned it into nothing but a dead letter on the paper,” said the father.
“And the western world is silent over what’s happening to Novak, as they are afraid to speak up. International Tennis Federation (ITP), Germans, French, Scandinavians, Italians, no one dares to speak against what’s going on in Australia, as if they were the rulers of the world.”
“No more. Enough is enough,” he said very plainly.
Novak Djokovic, his father pointed out, is the “best sportsman in all categories,” and there are no “but”s about it. “Novak is not the best tennis player in the world. Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player in the history of the world,” his father made an important distinction. Srdjan said that “they can’t utter those words out of their mouths and acknowledge that he is the best in the world, that someone coming from a small, poor country is the best in the world. “They believe that they are a higher race,” Novak’s father spoke his mind about the discrimination Novak faces.
On a sentimental note, Srdjan recounted an encounter he had recently with a journalist from CNN. He had been approached for an interview that would be featured in a documentary being prepared about Novak. Surrounded by the crew and ten cameras, he recalled being asked, “Are you proud of your children?” After a brief pause, he replied, “Are you proud of yours?” Srdjan shared about the encounter, “He said he was. I told him the concept of family pride culturally differs between us, and he wanted me to explain. So I did. You send your children away to boarding schools and colleges so they can visit home a few times per year, for the holidays. Your children can live in your home if they pay the rent.” In a statement which supports the tenacity with which he has fought for his son, Srdjan explained, “To us, our children are our children as long as we live.”
On Monday, Novak will know his fate. A few scenarios could play out. “To admit their mistake or to say, ‘We are the omnipotent Gods, and you, Novak, are from a small, poor country, and we don’t see you as an individual worthy of respect. We see through you. You are air to us, vacuum.”
—I asked Srdjan whether or not his family planned to go to Australia on Monday after the hearing.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen,” he replied “If the judge on Monday allows Novak to stay and compete, of course we will go there. Let them imprison us, as well, so we can all see their ‘democracy.'”
He added, “This is a crucial moment, a crossroad,” but “They will never break Novak down. Ever.”