Supporters wore Serbian flags and sang as their hero was ousted from Australia
Backers of deported tennis superstar Novak Djokovic danced outside court as the world number one lost his appeal to compete at the Australian Open and had his visa cancelation confirmed because he has not had a Covid vaccine.
Australian Open champion Djokovic's admirers have provided a colorful presence in Melbourne during the Serbian icon's ordeal ahead of the tournament, which culminated in his bid to stay in the country being officially dashed by a court on Sunday.
That did not stop Djokovic's supporters from making themselves known outside the hearing, brandishing flags and loudspeakers as they showed their support for the embattled 34-year-old.
Djokovic publicly thanked his fans after being briefly freed from detainment on January 10, when a judge asked what more the nine-time Australian Open winner could have done to satisfy border force officials.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner had taken a 25-hour flight to Australia because he believed he would be allowed to compete with a medical exemption as a result of testing positive for Covid in December 2021.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison's government overturned the decision to allow Djokovic to remain, arguing that his unvaccinated status made him a risk to the public.
Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke used his powers to cancel Djokovic's visa for a second time in a ruling that was upheld a day before the world's best tennis player was scheduled to defend his title.
Crowds were originally seen dancing to a band outside the Park Hotel in Carlton, where Djokovic was holed up after being interrogated upon landing.
Bosses ordered Djokovic to declare his vaccination status and surrender his passport before quizzing the baffled ace for hours over his right to be in Australia.
Demonstrators were also seen campaigning for Djokovic outside the Rod Laver Arena home of the tournament, where he practised after being released.
Crowds in Djokovic's homeland have joined his father, Srdjan, and mother Dijana in protesting against his treatment.
The embattled sporting great is expected to return to Serbia imminently, with the country's president, Aleksandar Vucic, saying the country "cannot wait to see him."
The Australian Open will go ahead without its top seed, running from January 17-30 2022.