Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lashed out at the Australian Government on Sunday morning, hours after a federal court paved the way for the expulsion of Novak Djokovic on the eve of the Australian Open over his vaccine status.
"They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of ten days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high," Vucic told a state media outlet.
Vucic has remained firm in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the unvaccinated tennis star a "political witch hunt".
"I spoke earlier to Novak Djokovic after the decision and I encouraged him. We look forward to seeing him return to his country, where he is always welcome," the president added.
Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was "extremely disappointed" by the federal court's ruling that upheld the government's right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment and dashed his dream of a record 21st Grand Slam
In Serbia, the ruling stoked outrage among Djokovic's fans.
"All the criticism about whether he was vaccinated or not doesn't hold water."
Many other Serbs echoed the view.
"The decision is not a surprise but is still shameful," said Jadranka Misic, a 29-year-old sociologist from Belgrade.
Emirates Flight EK409 Melbourne to Dubai has now departed with Mr Djokovic heading back to Serbia with his entourage.