He's refused to be vaccinated, admitted to flaunting isolation rules when Covid positive in Serbia, and submitted false declarations on his immigration forms before being deported from Australia – but Novak Djokovic has arrived home to a hero's welcome.
The explosive saga surrounding the world no 1 has proved divisive, with crowds of supporters – and protesters against his presence in Australia – gathering outside the Park Hotel in Carlton last week where Djokovic was detained after landing at Melbourne Airport.
High-profile tennis names like Rafael Nadal and Martina Navratilova have publicly spoken of how Djokovic could have avoided the situation by simply getting vaccinated, although the Australian Government – and border force officials – have come under fire for their perceived mistreatment of the controversial star.
Greg Rusedski was one pundit to lay the blame on the door of Tennis Australia, whose decision to hand Djokovic a dubious medical exemption, awarded on the basis he tested positive for Covid on December 16, kick-started a chaotic sequence of events.
His eventual deportation is set to have long term ramifications, with Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews confirming this morning Djokovic would now be barred from re-entering the country for the next three years.
However, his popularity back in Serbia seemingly remains unharmed, with hoards of fans gathered outside Belgrade's Nikola Tesla airport on Monday to wave Serbian flags and chant "You are our champion, Novak!" as he emerged through customs – this time without complication.
One banner read "Novak, God bless you" and the world no 1, who remained masked, took time to pose for selfies with fans.
Just hours earlier, he'd done the same as he waited for his connection flight in Dubai, whilst back in Melbourne the Australian Open was getting underway without him.
World no 150 Salvatore Caruso took Djokovic's place at the top of the draw, only to lose to another Serbian player, Miomir Kecmanovic, in straight sets.
After a dramatic 11 days, during which he twice had his visa revoked in-between successfully winning an appeal against being flown out of the country, Djokovic left Australia late on Sunday night.
This appears anything but the end of the furore though, with the 34-year-old's ongoing bid to win an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam at the French Open in May also under threat.
The French Government has now installed laws making a Covid pass mandatory for those attending sporting venues.
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