Novak Djokovic's coach says the star is 'suffering' in the wake of his Australian deportation row
Novak Djokovic's longtime coach Marian Vajda says that the Serbian superstar's deportation from Australia after a protracted staredown with the government's immigration officials was "unjust", but insists that the world number one will bounce back from the saga.
Djokovic has yet to comment at length following the stand-off which saw his visa twice revoked and him being detained in a hotel designed to temporarily house asylum seekers and refugees in a vaccination scandal which rocked the sports world.
And speaking to Serbian outlet Sport Klub, Vajda admits that the episode has left Djokovic reeling.
"I still don't understand why they did it to him," he said. "It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that has not yet happened.
"I haven't communicated with him since he arrived in Belgrade. It is clear that it hit him mentally, it will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head."
Djokovic was initially granted a medical exemption to defend his Australian Open crown but was detained by Australian Border Force guards upon his arrival in Melbourne around two weeks before he was due to play his first match.
His detention was later overruled by an Australian court on procedural grounds before the country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke intervened, leading to accusations of political grandstanding in what is an election year for Morrison - and Vajda sums up the entire episode as being little more than a "political process".
"I can't imagine how he handled it, it must have been a huge suffering. He humbly endured all measures, but what they did to him must mark him. It was a political process," he said.
Djokovic's hunt for what would be a record 21st Grand Slam win will be delayed until Roland Garros in May, or at least that was thought to be the case when France's sports minister hinted that a player's vaccination status wouldn't impinge on their right to play - though it seems that the country may well have had a recent change of heart, potentially leading to more drama in a few months' time.
"I don't understand and I don't understand why it's important for them to announce this now about the tournaments that will take place in May, when the world doesn't even know what will happen to the pandemic in a month," Vajda added.
"I know him very well. Novak is strong, resolute and has not yet said his last word in tennis."