Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Sunday that Australian authorities “think they humiliated Djokovic,” but “have humiliated themselves.”
Addressing journalists, Vučić said he had spoken to Novak Djokovic and offered him encouragement, after judges in Australia on Sunday dismissed the player's challenge to overturn the cancellation of his visa for a second time.
"I spoke with Djokovic shortly after the decision was handed down. I encouraged him, letting him know that we are all awaiting his return to Serbia, his home country, where he is always welcome. Those people who were trying to show [the world] that they are so principled, in fact, demonstrated the exact opposite," Vučić said.
Vučić went on to criticize how Djokovic was treated by the Australian media and authorities, calling it a "witch hunt" against the tennis star and Serbia.
"You are harassing the best tennis player in the world for 10, 11 days, and on the 11th day you hand down the decision that you had always intended to hand down since day one," Vučić said.
"If you had said that an unvaccinated person cannot enter Australia, then Djokovic either would not have come or would have gotten vaccinated. But you left the door open for medical exemption, and so he received one and came with this status. He did all that was asked of him and then began the harassment, followed by an unprecedented media lynching," he added.
"A literal witch hunt was whipped up against one person and one country because they wanted to show Novak Djokovic how world order works, and how they can treat anyone they choose like this," the president said.
Vučić also accused the prosecutor of "lying," saying he had understated the proportion of Serbia's population that is vaccinated against Covid-19. According to official data, 58% of the adult population in Serbia is vaccinated.
Vučić added that Serbia would give Australian athletes an "incomparably better" welcome in March, when the World Athletics Indoor Championships takes place in Belgrade.
"They will come to the athletics championship and we will show the Australian government how much better we are," he said.
Vučić then thanked those in Australia who have supported the tennis star: "I thank the Australian people, who I am certain love Serbian people as much as we respect the Australian people."
Vučić concluded, "They think they’ve humiliated Djokovic, with this 10-day harassment. They’ve only humiliated themselves, and Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high."