Novak Djokovic broke his silence from a quarantine hotel in Australia to say he “greatly appreciates” the support offered to him by fans.
The Serbian tennis star also thanked his family, country and supporters around the world while he awaits the outcome of an appeal to the courts about his Australian visa.
His comments, posted on his Instagram page for his 9.8 million followers, came just hours after his wife spoke out to thank people for “using your voice to send love to my husband”.
On Friday, Orthodox Serbs celebrated Christmas, while the nine-time Australian Open champion was holed up in the Park Hotel in Melbourne, which is used to accommodate asylum seekers and refugees.
In a message written in his native tongue, Djokovic said: “Thank you to my family, Serbia and all good people across the world who are sending me support. Thanks to dear God for health.”
It appeared alongside a picture of a nativity scene.
He also posted a message in English, saying: “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”
The tennis star, 34, has been detained since Thursday morning at an immigration facility after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured to enter the country.
The sportsman has appealed against the decision and must wait for a hearing on Monday to discover his fate.
The furore has focused attention on other exemptions granted to unvaccinated players who cited a recent infection to gain access to Australia.
His wife Jelena Djokovic took to social media to express her gratitude to the player’s fans for their backing.
In Instagram and Twitter posts, she wrote: “Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband.
“I am taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude (and understanding) in this moment for all that is happening.
“The only law that we should all respect across every single border is love and respect for another human being.
“Love and forgiveness is never a mistake but a powerful force. Wishing you all well!”
On Friday a small crowd was gathered outside the Park Hotel, including one supporter, Tatjana, who said Djokovic “doesn’t deserve to be in this refugee camp”.
“I’m here to support Novak, to set him free, because I think he doesn’t deserve what the Australian government has done to him and it’s not true when they said in the media that they treat everyone equally,” she said.
“I think Novak doesn’t deserve to be in this refugee camp and I don’t think you’ll see any other tennis player in this refugee camp.”
The tennis star’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, 61, demonstrated outside the National Assembly buildings in Belgrade, claiming the world number one has been made a scapegoat and “crucified” in the row.
“He met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won, since it’s Novak, the best tennis player and sportsman in the world,” Mr Djokovicr said on Thursday.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things, but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified … he will endure.”
It has since emerged that two other people connected to the Australian Open have been instructed to leave the country by the Australian Border Force.
“The Australian Border Force can confirm that its investigation into the visa status of two other individuals connected to the Australian Open has concluded,” a representative for the force said.
“The ABF can confirm that one individual has voluntarily departed Australia after ABF inquiries.
“We can also confirm that the visa of a third individual has been cancelled. This person has been taken into immigration detention pending their removal from Australia.
“The ABF employs a multi-layered approach to border management. This includes avenues to investigate, locate and detain individuals who have been found to breach our border entry requirements after their arrival into Australia.”