Nine-time winner Novak Djokovic would be welcome to attend the Australian Open if he can get a visa, tournament director Craig Tiley has said.
The former Serbian world number 1 was kicked out of the country for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 in a dramatic turn of events in January.
Djokovic is not allowed to return until 2025, although the Australian government can lift the ban at its discretion
Tiley said the 35-year-old Wimbledon champion would also be eligible if he was able to overturn the visa ban as part of his deportation.
Tiley has had no contact with the government over Djokovic and the Australian Open organizers are unable to lobby on the Serb’s behalf.
“At this point, Novak and the feds need to get the situation sorted out, and then we’ll follow all instructions after that,” Tiley told reporters.
“It’s not a matter that we can put pressure on. It’s a matter that definitely stays between the two of them, and then depending on the outcome, we’ll welcome him to the Australian Open.”
Djokovic, who also missed the US Open due to his vaccination status, said last month he was awaiting “positive news” from Australian authorities.
However, Australia’s former Home Secretary, Karen Andrews, an opposition MP, said this week she was opposed to the government lifting the ban on Djokovic, saying it would be a “slap in the face for Australians who have been vaccinated.
Separately, Tiley said Russian and Belarus players will be able to participate in the Australian Open under a neutral flag.
Tennis authorities banned Russian and Belarusian players from international team competitions after Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, but allowed them to participate in regular tours.
The French Open and US Open Grand Slam tournaments allowed them to compete as neutrals, although Wimbledon imposed an outright ban.
“At this point Russian and Belarusian players will be eligible to play at the Australian Open,” Tiley said.
“The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia – cannot represent the flag of Russia.
“They cannot participate in any activity such as the anthem of Russia and they must play as independent players under a neutral name.
“But they will be welcome at the Australian Open in January.”