Australia will overturn a three-year ban on tennis player Novak Djokovic entering the country, paving the way for the former world No. 1 to contest the 2023 Australian Open.
Djokovic confirmed the news in his press conference Wednesday after defeating Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, adding that he will compete in the 2023 Australian Open next January.
“I was very happy to receive the news yesterday,” the 21-time grand slam champion told reporters. “It was a relief obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously … I could not receive better news for sure.
Djokovic said: “Knowing that I have clarity now, what I do in the off-season, starting the season in Australia, also of course did relieve some of the pressure me and my team felt. Just giving that clarity makes it great for us.”
Djokovic has won nine men’s singles titles at the Australian Open, more than anyone else in history.
“The Australian Open has been my most successful Grand Slams. I made some of the best memories there. Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer,” Djokovic added.
Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after former immigration minister Alex Hawke found that he posed a risk to public health and order because, as a celebrity sportsman who had previously expressed opposition to vaccination, he could be seen as an “icon” for anti-vaxxers.
The minister’s decision to deport the player meant he would be banned from re-entry for three years.
Earlier on Tuesday, Tennis Australia’s CEO Craig Tiley said he was hopeful Djokovic will play at the Australian Open in January next year.
“There’s a normal visa application process that everyone is going through right now, and everyone will go through the right timing,” Tiley told told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency.
“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.”
A source with direct knowledge told CNN on Tuesday that the country would overturn the three-year ban.
Djokovic’s Australian Open drama
Djokovic’s high-profile visa saga overshadowed the Australian Open earlier this year, pitting one of tennis’ biggest stars against the Australian government and dividing opinion in the country, which had enacted tough pandemic border restrictions.
The government revoked the Serbian’s visa shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on January 5 because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Djokovic said he was under the impression he could enter the country because two independent panels associated with Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government had granted him an exemption on the grounds he had been infected with the virus a few weeks prior to his arrival.
But the federal government argued that was not a valid reason for an exemption under its rules.
A judge later ruled that border officers had been “unreasonable” when they canceled Djokovic’s visa and ordered his release from an immigration detention center.
But his visa was then revoked for a second time and after losing his bid to challenge the decision, the tennis star left Australia shortly after.
Despite his return to action in selected tournaments following the ordeal, the player’s Covid-19 vaccination stance restricted his participation in others.
In July, Djokovic won his 21st grand slam title, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon.