MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic will not get official support with Tennis Australia lobbying if he seeks to enter the country for the first major tournament of 2023, a year after he was kicked out for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion was barred from defending his Australian Open title last January after a tumultuous 10-day legal saga that culminated in his visa being revoked on the eve of the tournament ultimately won by Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic was initially granted an exemption from strict vaccination rules by two medical panels and Tennis Australia in order to play at the Australian Open but, after traveling to Melbourne believing he had all his papers in order, the exemption was rejected by the Australian Border Force.
“It’s not an issue that we can put pressure on. It’s an issue that definitely stays between the two of them,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday at the launch. the 2023 event, referencing Djokovic and the Australian government.
“And then depending on the outcome,” Tiley added, “we would welcome him to the Australian Open.”
The deportation subjected Djokovic to a possible three-year debarment period which prevents the granting of a new temporary visa, although the Australian Border Force said in January that any debarment period “will be considered part of any new visa application and may be waived in certain circumstances.”
The ABF said each case is assessed on its merits.
Australia has changed its border rules and since July 6, incoming travelers no longer have to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
Tiley has been heavily criticized for his role in the confusion that led to the then top-ranked men’s tennis player landing in Australia, thinking he was exempt from strict laws for unvaccinated travellers, then being questioned by border officials for hours at Melbourne Airport before being detained. in immigration detention.
The main source of confusion was the exemptions granted to Djokovic and a few others by the state government and Tennis Australia to participate in the tournament – despite regulations requiring all fans, officials and players to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – which ultimately had yet to be assessed by border security officers.
Djokovic was allowed to practice at Melbourne Park after initial success in court, but Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke eventually used discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa on character grounds, saying that he was the “talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiments”. .”
A recent winner of tournaments in Israel and Kazakhstan, Djokovic may ask new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to reconsider his visa status.
Tiley, who is also the chief executive of Tennis Australia, said he met Djokovic in London last month at the Laver Cup and believes the Serbian star has no bitterness about the saga.
But Tiley stressed that the couple were only speaking generally about Djokovic’s visa situation.
“He said he obviously would like to come back to Australia, but he knows it will be an ultimate decision for the Federal Government and he accepts that,” Tiley said. “If you notice, he plays a lot of tennis at the end of the year in anticipation and hopes his candidacy will be successful. But it’s up to him.”
A review of the episode that made global headlines led Tennis Australia to outsource visa applications for players and their entourages to a firm specializing in immigration matters.
Tiley said the Australian Open has no intention of following the example of Wimbledon, which banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing this year due to the invasion of Ukraine.
But there will be no reference to the nationality of those players, including Australian Open 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev of Russia and two-time women’s singles champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, under tour rules.
Tiley declined to discuss plans for an overhaul of the Australian calendar which is expected to include a new mixed team tournament with 16 nations staged across the country ahead of the Australian Open.
Such a competition would have similarities to the long-running Hopman Cup, which was held in Perth for three decades before the ATP Cup was introduced in 2020.
Tiley, who promised the return of elite tennis to Perth for the first time since the pandemic while in Western Australia last week, said a summer program would be introduced soon.
“We hope that our major cities will organize a major event, a different, one-of-a-kind event,” he said. “We will make that announcement when we are ready to make that announcement.”