Novak Djokovic – more than a game!

Novak Djokovic is officially No. 1 seed of the Australian Open, but whether it remains so will be known in the following days and no later than January 17th, when the tournament starts.

Meanwhile, the Australian court ruled in favor of Novak Djokovic on the 10th of January –annulling the decision about canceling visa as well as the request for deportation made by the Australian authorities. On the very same day, after having spent six days in an immigration detention hotel due to the revocation of a visa previously given on the basis of medical exemption and after having his team filed a complaint to that decision, he went out on the tennis court in Melbourne.

However, the decision is not final as the Australian minister for immigration has discretionary power to overturn the court decision. Furthermore, Djokovic’s travels during the quarantine are currently being re-examined due to his COVID-19 infection before his departure to Australia.

It is known that the population of Australia has been faced with strict epidemiological restrictions and frequent lock-downs of cities and countries. In that country, even 90% of adult citizens got vaccinated with the second dose. However, on the 6th of January, more than 70.000 new cases were registered.

To remind, the beginning of 2020 was labeled by drama and media pressure after Border authorities had revoked Djokovic’s visa at the airport of Melbourne. Not being vaccinated, Novak Djokovic had to fulfill certain conditions in order to enter Australia and participate in the tournament. The main condition was to get vaccinated or provide proof that he had recovered from COVID-19. Novak got the medical exemption based on having been recovered from COVID-19 infection, for which he was tested positive on the 16th December 2021. However, information appeared in media that in that period Djokovic participated at the panel titled Path of a Champion organized by his Foundation. During that time and on behalf of the Belgrade Tennis Association, Djokovic handed over cups and awards to the best young players of the season. On the 18th of December, Djokovic confessed having given the interview and photo shoot for French L’equippe while he was infected with COVID-19.


On January 3rd, Novak Djokovic got a medical exemption for a vaccine against COVID-19 by two independent boards of the Tennis Australia and the Victorian State Government, thus fulfilling the condition for the possibility to participate in the tournament. In Australia, one can get a medical exemption for unvaccinated if it is based on the evidence of being previously recovered from COVID-19, having serious health issues, or being allergic to the vaccine.


Visa revocation and request for the deportation of Novak Djokovic, then transfer to an immigration detention hotel caused huge attention primarily of Serbian but also regional and worldwide media, as well as sports ambassadors, fans, and to the same extent the opponents of the world’s first racket. The analysis showed that for the period from 3rd to 11th of January, when Djokovic announced that he had got the medical exemption and that he would participate in the tournament, there were over 460.000 posts with the keyword Novak Djokovic. The trend of daily publishing shows that the highest number of posts was during the 6th of January when Djokovic was kept at the airport in Melbourne and the 10th of January when a decision was awaited – the one that judge ruled in favor of Djokovic.

Serbian media coverage about Novak Djokovic would not be to that extent unexpected if it wasn’t abounded with sensationalist titles, narratives, disinformation, and fake news directed to the general public. That wouldn’t be much worrisome if those publications were not placed by very popular media in Serbia, the ones that are highly read in Montenegro.

Showcase of articles with keyword Nokak Djokovic for the period 3-11 January


In any case, by using his right not to get vaccinated, Novak Djokovic has contributed to being harassed and mistreated in many ways. It is questionable whether this will have a negative connotation for him and his career.

This whole case made the best worldwide tennis player a symbol of the anti-vaccination movement and started a new wave of conspiracy and other manipulations of information. Of course, in the Balkans, that wave easily gets nationalist and political connotation. The media contributes greatly to this by spreading untrusted information and biased reporting. Instead of being a solution to the problem, they are just making it worse. All events related to Novak Djokovic’s case showed an urgent need for media and digital literacy, especially in the Western Balkans.


The narrative about the endangerment of the Serbian people, which has been dominant in Serbian media for the last few years, has once again been brought to the forefront. Serbian media are united over the thesis that Djokovic has been inflicted a huge injustice and that it represents an attack on the Serbian people, not even once having mentioned the vaccination obligatory for the entrance into Australia. Sensationalist headlines conveyed that border force officials were torturing Novak with an intent to break him down, that the lawyer of Australian authorities threatened him together with the Australian government which wanted to detain him.

Serbian tabloids targeted all those who dared to criticize Djokovic, and that is how Serbian media condemned Vlora Çitaku, who shared the post about Novak Djokovic followed by the quote All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others from the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. It was presented in media as an unseen insolence followed by comments that Çitaku compared Djokovic with an animal, more precisely – with pigs.

Right after the revocation of the visa, the media and members of Djokovic’s family placed the information that he had been arrested. However, it turned out to be fake news. Australian media claimed this not being true citing statements by members of the Australian Government and sources from the Tennis Australia. After that, Djokovic tweeted on his account a picture from the tennis court which confirmed that he was neither arrested nor detained, but that he was free to move around.

The events related to Novak Djokovic were covered almost in the same way by all media in Montenegro, but the pro-Serbian portals IN4S and Borba paid special attention to that case. Praising Djokovic’s achievements and criticizing Australian authorities, the reporting of those two portals did not differ much from the reporting of the Serbian tabloids.

As the days were passing by and the saga or drama (as it was presented in media) kept going on, the media were talking less about sport and Djokovic’s participation in the tournament and more about politics, endangerment of Serbian people, and vaccines. Sensationalism, biased reporting, and disinformation filled the columns of Serbian tabloids, as well as of certain media in Montenegro.


Novak Djokovic was the number one topic on social networks, as well. In the previous 14 days, he was mentioned 38,4 times on Twitter.

Djokovic was the main topic in the region as well. In the last two weeks, the best worldwide tennis player was mentioned 61,7 thousand times.

Novak Djokovic has definitely divided social network users by becoming the front face of the anti-vaccination movement and those against COVID-19 measures. On the other hand, Novak Djokovic was criticized for not being vaccinated, as well as for appearing in public without a mask after receiving a positive test to COVID-19.

Both regional and worldwide politicians deal with Djokovic’s case. It is interesting to mention the appearance of Nigel Farage, a former right-wing British and European parliamentarian and one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign. Farage stayed with Djokovic’s family in Belgrade, constantly supporting ‘the first worldwide racket’ by criticizing Australian authorities. It is interesting to mention that during the Brexit campaign, Farage praised Australia’s conservative approach for entering the country. In addition to that, one of the xenophobic messages that could be heard during the Brexit campaign is the threat of the arrival of millions of Turks, Albanians, Serbs, and Montenegrins.

Serbian politicians, led by the leader of the right-wing movement Dveri Boskov Obradovic, mostly supported Djokovic. Obradovic also assumed certain narratives from popular conspiracy theories saying that Djokovic is fighting against the deep state.

Djokovic’s case also brought new quarrels between the ambassador of Serbia – Marko Djuric, and the ambassador of Kosovo – Vlora Çitaku, to Washington. Djuric tried to literary interpret the quote from the Animal Farm posted by Çitaku, believing that it was a matter of dehumanization and hate speech addressed to the Serbs.

On the other hand, some people used the opportunity and made fun of the entire situation. Thus, one Twitter user assigned the American actor Steve Carell the role of an Australian Brigadier General named Moit Egadio, who as a sign of protest against the Australian government’s treatment of Novak, decided to resign.

Australian Brigadier General Moit Egadio resigned as a sign of protest due to the way his government treated the world’s first racket. You are a hero! It was written on the account dnevnik iz srema (Diary from Srem) followed by Steve Carell’s picture. That satirical post was shared in that context on other social networks as well.

However, many people understood literally that satirical post, and the fact that during the protest Novak Djokovic’s father sincerely thanked the imaginary General for supporting Novak, tells us how quickly the information spreads. It is another indicator of utterly low media and digital literacy degree in our region.


After the Melbourne case escalated, Novak Djokovic’s family invited people for mass gatherings not only in front of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia in protest against the actions of Australian authorities, but also worldwide gatherings. All gatherings in Belgrade were covered by the media, and the Djokovic family also organized press conferences.

In his speeches, Novak’s father Srdjan equals Novak to the Serbian people. They wanted to set him on his knees. Not only him, but our country as well. Our gorgeous country Serbia! We are the Serbs! We never attack, we just defend ourselves. Always, through the whole history. Now, the exact same thing does our pride, our Serb – said Srdjan Djokovic.

On the protests that were held in Belgrade from 6th to 9th January, which were attended by hundreds of citizens, the elder Djokovic spoke about the survival of Serbian people wondering why the Serbs as an old European nation with a long history deserved such treatment. He (Novak) will endure, as we endure because they bombed us, oppressed us and destroyed us – he said. In addressing to the crowd, Srdjan Djokovic also mentioned the issue of Kosovo and mother Russia.

He described Novak, who, as he said, didn’t want to be a part of that imperial world, as Spartacus of the new age and compared him with the Jesus Christ sacrifice. Being a part of fake news spreading that appeared on social networks, Srdjan Djokovic once mentioned that the Australian Brigadier General resigned in support of Novak Djokovic. Exclamations against Masons and black nobility could be heard at gatherings in Belgrade, and some anti-vaccine messages were sent as well. The Minister in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Darija Kisic Tepavcevic, also attended one of the gatherings.

Protests in support of Novak Djokovic were held on January 7th in several Montenegrin cities – Niksic, Budva, and Berane. The common thing of such gatherings, apart from non-compliance with the prescribed epidemiological measures to keep the coronavirus under control, is that the protests were led by the high officials of those municipalities. Since 2018, the first worldwide tennis player has been awarded honorary citizenship of Budva city, while in September 2021 he was declared an honorary citizen of Niksic as well.

In Budva, the gathered citizens were addressed by the mayor Marko Carevic, who said that citizens of Budva were aware of the fact who Novak Djokovic was, adding that the actual reason why Australian authorities were afraid of him, was his faith in himself till the very end.

The mayor of Niksic, Marko Kovacevic, said at the gathering Everything happening to Novak Djokovic is unfair, but we are the nation that got used to being exposed to injustice – at the same time collectivizing the feeling of victimization. Apart from Kovacevic, the event was attended by a long-time member of the Democratic Front, the current Chairman of the EPCG Board of Directors – Milutin Djukanovic.

Words of support for the Serbian tennis player could be heard in Paris as well when the protest of about 18,000 anti-vaxxers against the implementation of vaccination passes, mandatory vaccination, and vaccination of children turned into protest for demanding freedom for Djokovic. Several day protests by Djokovic’ s fans were also held in Melbourne, where gathered people were sending anti-vaccine messages.