Novak Djokovic has arrived home in Serbia to be greeted by fans, hoards of international media, and warnings from France about his participation in the French Open.
Once he was inside the terminal at Belgrade airport locals asked for his picture and autograph, before he was whisked away through a VIP exit.
The athlete's movements have been closely tracked by the global press and his avid Serbian supporters who wanted to offer him a hero's welcome.
"We came here to support Novak Djokovic in his fight against the Australian government," Mihijlo Vejkl told the ABC.
"In Serbia when he plays it means everything to us, it's like a holiday in our country."
Astonishing twist looming in Djokovic visa war
There is an extraordinary twist looming in the Novak Djokovic visa fight ahead of the Australian Open, according to a 4BC host.Breen is among several journalists reporting that Djokovic will have his visa cancelled by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke today.
At the exit of the airport, groups chanted "Djokovic, Djokovic, Djokovic" while jumping and waving the Serbian flag, others carried signs that said "welcome Nole".
"I'm sorry for him, because he's so good, I could cry because he just didn't deserve this,” Djokovic fan Maja Marjanović told the ABC.
"I think he made history, as a hero, as a man, as a fighter against this evil that is called corona circus," another supporter, Marko Strugolovic, said.
But his local fans were outnumbered by the dozens of media crews who had travelled from around the world to capture the final chapter in his visa saga.
The men's world number one left Melbourne after a tumultuous 11-day-stay in Australia, that saw his visa cancelled twice, and two court challenges.
Djokovic domino-effect sparks $30m 'problem'
A lot of people are angry at Novak Djokovic. But that doesn't mean the world No.1 will be abandoned by his sponsors.The world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player is the top seed and defending champion at the Australian Open. But it’s unclear if he can compete Monday after Australian officials again revoked his visa because he lacks a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving his attorneys to appeal his possible deportation.
Ultimately the Federal Court ruled in favour of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke using his ministerial powers to deport Djokovic, who failed to meet vaccine entry requirements.
The result means Djokovic, who was seeking a record 21st men's grand slam singles title, will have to watch from afar as longtime rival Rafael Nadal looks to do just that, even as questions are raised about whether the Serb will have more visa problems in the future.
French Open will offer 'no exemptions'
Djokovic's COVID vaccine status looks set to cause him more headaches in the future.
A spokesperson for France's Ministry of Sport has warned there will be no exemption for unvaccinated players at the upcoming French Open in May.
The country recently introduced COVID-passes that require individuals to have received two doses to enter many venues, including sports venues like the grounds at Roland Garros.
Serbs are angry at the Australian government — but the reasons are more complicated than you might think
In Serbia, Novak Djokovic is not just a tennis star, he's a national hero who has brought hope and light to the country after dark times, Isabella Higgins writes from Belgrade.In the southern suburbs of the capital Belgrade, the tennis star is memorialised with not one, but two murals in a complex of ageing concrete, brutalist, apartment buildings.
"The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated, in establishments that were already subject to the health pass," the ministry said in a statement.
"This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson and this until further notice.
"Now, as far as Roland Garros is concerned, it's in May the situation may change between now and then and we hope that it will be more favourable, we'll see, but clearly there's no exemption."
The country’s Sports Minister, Roxana Maracineanu, backed the hardline approach.
“It will become compulsory to enter public buildings already subject to the health pass (stadium, theatre or lounge) for all spectators, practitioners, French or foreign professionals,” she wrote on social media.
The country’s vaccine pass system also applies to hospitality and entertainment venues like cafes, restaurants and museums.
The debate over vaccine status at major tournaments has stirred controversy in the tennis world.
Nadal, said that “the best players should be on the court,” while addressing media at Melbourne Park.
''That's better for the sport, without a doubt and if Novak Djokovic is playing here it is better for everybody."
The Spanish player has previously spoken in support of vaccinations but said the situation at the Australian Open with Djokovic had "been a mess".