February 4, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Djokovic is back in Australia a year after his deportation

Former world number one Novak Djokovic arrived in Australia on Tuesday almost a year after he was deported for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19, tennis officials said.

The nine-time Australian Open champion was initially banned from the country for three years after losing a high-stakes legal battle over his vaccination status in January.

Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid.

The government confirmed in November that the unvaccinated Serb was no longer suspended and had been granted a visa allowing him to play in the year’s inaugural grand slam, which begins next month.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said he hoped local fans would welcome Djokovic’s return.

“We welcome him to Australia,” he told reporters.

“I think as we speak he lands in Adelaide and I think he’s going to be the player to beat again.

“I have great faith in the Australian public. I’m very confident that the fans will react as we hope.”

Tennis Australia confirmed Djokovic had landed.

Djokovic, who has won 21 Grand Slams, has been criticized for his role in the saga, which unfolded as anti-vaccination protests raged in Australia’s major cities.

He is scheduled to play at the Adelaide International from Sunday while warming up for the Melbourne Open.

“Over the years I’ve been very fortunate to start very strongly in Australia and I love playing there,” said the world number five in Dubai last week after winning a record-breaking sixth ATP Tour Finals Krone had finished.

“After obviously what happened earlier this year hopefully I can get decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis.”

Djokovic last set foot in Australia almost a year ago and claims he was granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption to enter the country without a vaccination because he recently recovered from Covid-19.

However, Australian border officials said he did not meet the requirements to be exempted from strict vaccination requirements and he was held for five days while pursuing an ultimately unsuccessful appeal.