Djokovic is cleared to play in Australian Open
NEW YORK – Australia has cleared the way for tennis star Novak Djokovic to seek his 22nd Grand Slam title at the upcoming Australian Open, lifting a three-year ban from the country that was imposed in January when he was deported over his failure to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Officials confirmed on Tuesday that the cancellation of his visa – a decision made by Australia’s previous government, on the eve of the last Open – had been revoked by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. That leaves Djokovic free to apply for a new visa, which is expected to be quickly approved.
The decision, previously reported by The Guardian, reflects how much has changed since Australia in July dropped its requirement that visitors be vaccinated for the coronavirus. And it shows just how much its tennis fans, in particular, want to get back to normal.
The Open is Australia’s premier international sporting event. For years, its organisers have worked to make it especially player-friendly, to compete with older, more respected Majors such as Wimbledon – and the messy detention and deportation of Djokovic, who had said he believed that a prior Covid-19 infection would be enough to exempt him from Australia’s vaccination requirement, did not help.
Over the past few weeks, Djokovic and Australian Open organisers have signalled that they hoped the episode could be put behind them, but tournament officials also said they would not lobby the government to make an exception for Djokovic.
On Monday night in Italy, after winning his opening match at the ATP Finals in Turin, Djokovic told reporters that he and his team were still hoping for a green light from Australia.
“We are waiting. They are communicating with the government of Australia,” he said. “That’s all I can tell you for now.”
Winning a 22nd Grand Slam title in Australia would tie Djokovic with Rafael Nadal, who won last year’s Open, for the most singles wins in men’s tennis.
At Wimbledon, Djokovic won his seventh singles title, his 21st overall, putting him one ahead of Roger Federer and one behind Nadal on the all-time list.
“It always comes, really, throughout my career, at exactly the time that I need it to come,” he said, of Wimbledon after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece on Monday night. “It was a huge relief, but at the same time also a huge boost of confidence.” - NYTIMES