Tennis champion Novak Djokovic will reportedly be allowed to compete in the 2023 Australian Open after authorities decided to overturn his three-year ban and grant him a visa.
The 35-year-old, who is unvaccinated against Covid-19, has been strong in his opposition to getting the jab, inadvertently becoming a poster boy of the anti-vax movement.
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In January, the Serbian’s visa was cancelled as he tried to enter the country ahead of the 2022 Australian Open just hours after touting his “exemption permission” on Instagram.
Former Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled his visa “on health and good order grounds”, and Djokovic was deported from the country on the eve of the grand slam tournament, which was won by Spanish rival Rafael Nadal.
The nine-time Australian Open champion copped a three-year ban following the ordeal, but the Albanese government has overturned the sanction, according to multiple reports.
Current Immigration Minister Andrew Giles is expected to grant Djokovic a visa, allowing the world No. 8 to compete at this summer’s Australian Open.
“There’s a normal visa application process that everyone is going through right now, and everyone will go through the right timing,” Australian Open director Craig Tiley told AAP earlier on Tuesday.
“I don’t think there should be any preferential treatment for anyone.
“But I fully expect to have an answer for everyone by the time that they need to book their flights and come in, including Novak.
“That’s entirely up to the Australian government. I know Novak wants to come and play and to get back to competing.
“He loves Australia and it’s where he’s had the best success but the timing (on any announcement) is up to somebody else and we’ll just play that one by ear.
“He understands the circumstances and everything but he’s got to work it out with the federal government. I’m confident they’ll reach some arrangement and hopefully it’s positive.”
Last month, Djokovic spoke to Serbian website Sportal about his desire to return to Australia this summer.
“I really want to go there,” he said.
“I am over what happened this year and I just want to play tennis, it is what I do best. Australia has always been the place where I have played my best tennis, the results speak for themselves, so I am always extra motivated to go there. This time even more so.
“I am hoping for a positive answer.
“For the choices I made, I knew there would be certain consequences like not going to America. For Australia it was a different case, I had the exception, but in the end it did not work out. We know what happened, let’s not go back.
“This time I am waiting for the permission again. It is a good thing that they have now opened the borders for the unvaccinated foreigners travelling to Australia.
“I have that ban, I hope it will be lifted. As I said, it is not in my hands, I hope the people in the Australian Government will give a positive answer, that is all.”