Djokovic, who has won 21 Grand Slams, has been criticized for his part in the saga, which was played as anti-vaccination protests took place in major Australian cities. File | Image Credit: Reuters
Former world number one Novak Djokovic arrived in Australia on Tuesday nearly a year after he was deported for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, tennis officials said.
The nine-time Australian Open champion was banned from the country for the first time in three years after losing a high-stakes legal battle in January over his vaccine status.
Australia has removed its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against COVID.
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The government confirmed in November that the unvaccinated Serb was no longer banned and had been granted a visa allowing him to play in the year’s opening Grand Slam, which starts next month.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said he hoped the local fans would welcome Djokovic’s return.
“We welcome him back to Australia,” he told reporters.
“I think as we speak he’s coming to Adelaide and I think he’s going to be the player to beat again.
“I have a lot of confidence in the Australian public. I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react the way we hope they will.”
Tennis Australia confirmed Djokovic hit.
Djokovic, who has won 21 Grand Slams, has been criticized for his part in the saga, which was played as anti-vaccination protests took place in major Australian cities.
He is scheduled to play in the Adelaide International, starting Sunday, as he warms up for the Open in Melbourne.
“Over the years I’ve been really lucky to start really strong in Australia and I’d love to play there,” the world number five said in Dubai last week after finishing 2022 with a record-equalling sixth crown at the ATP Tour Finals.
“After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I will have a decent reception there and hopefully that will help me play good tennis.”
Djokovic last set foot in Australia almost a year ago, saying he got a medical exemption to enter the country without vaccination because he had recently recovered from COVID-19.
However, Australian border officials said he did not meet the requirements to be exempt from strict vaccination rules and he was detained for five days pending an unsuccessful legal appeal.