Serbia is “used to injustice”, the former tennis player has told the deported world number one Bojana Jovanovski © Jon Buckle / Getty Images for LTA

Novak Djokovic’s Australian exit over his Covid vaccination status is the latest injustice against his country, an ex-player has claimed while referencing the NATO bombings which the champion endured as a child in Belgrade.

The 12-year-old Djokovic had to shelter from NATO warfare in the Serbian capital when the bombing campaign took place between March and June 1999, and the tennis icon has spoken since about the effect the ordeal had on his life and career.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, said at the end of 2021 that he would “never forgive” the assault which purportedly aimed to force Serbian troops out of Kosovo, adding that it had left “traumas that last a lifetime”.

Now Serbian ex-Australian Open competitor Bojana Jovanovski has claimed Djokovic is fighting “world powers” and “sport against politics”, reacting to his visa saga which has seen the reigning champion at the tournament deported by the Australian government because he has not been vaccinated against Covid.

“We have experienced various kinds of injustice, at least through our childhood,” said Belgrade-born Jovanovski, writing a passionate open letter to her beleaguered compatriot.

“Bombs were thrown by world powers at civilian facilities in our city and our youngest fellow citizens and friends were killed.

“Now the world’s powerful are putting pressure on you to give up, because in other [ways] – in a fair and sporty way – no one can defeat you. Success is something they obviously don’t want to forgive you for.”

The 20-time Grand Slam winner endured a complicated fiasco after arriving in Australia, including several days in detention and two court hearings as his lawyers unsuccessfully argued that he should be allowed to stay in the country and compete because he had been granted a medical exemption from vaccination requirements.

Jovanovksi drew a somewhat bizarre parallel between Djokovic’s experience and one of the most harrowing incidents ever to have happened in tennis, when Yugoslavian-born Monica Seles was the victim of a knife attack on court in 1993.

“This has happened in history to our fellow citizen, Monica Seles,” said Jovanovksi, namechecking the four-time Australian Open champion.

“In the period when she was the best in the world, she was stabbed in the back. But at least we are used to injustice, and regardless of the outcome of this humiliating agony that was prepared for you, you are not alone – you are our greatest pride.

“It is up to you now to fight for justice no matter what and no matter the outcome – to do your best in that fight.

“You know that better than all of us. At the same time, you have to think about yourself and your safety. (RT)