Novak Djokovic welcome to Australian Open, tournament director says; Russian and Belarusian players can compete



CNN

Novak Djokovic would be welcome to play at the Australian Open if he can get a visa, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The ancient world no. 1 was deported from Australia in January after a protracted saga, including time in detention, that prevented him from participating in this year’s Australian Open because of his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Under Australian law, Djokovic could be removed from the country for three years because of the circumstances surrounding his deportation, although Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews did not rule out an exemption at the time.

Tiley said on Wednesday that the Australian Open was unable to lobby on Djokovic’s behalf in the matter, while explaining that it has not been in contact with the Australian government regarding the 21-time Grand Slam winner’s visa .

If Djokovic can get a visa, Tiley said the nine-time Australian Open winner would be allowed to play in the first Grand Slam of 2023.

“At this point, Novak and the federal government have to resolve the situation and then we will follow any instructions,” Tiley told reporters.

“It’s not a matter that we can press on. It’s a matter that’s definitely between the two of them and depending on the outcome, we’ll welcome him to the Australian Open.”

Tiley added: “(Djokovic) said he would obviously love to come back to Australia, but he knows it will be a final decision for the federal government.

“He has accepted this position. It is a private matter between them, but we would like to welcome Novak back (he is a nine-time champion), provided he meets the appropriate entry requirements in Australia.”

The Serb also did not play in this year’s US Open as he remains without a Covid-19 vaccination and US rules at the time stipulated that any non-US citizen had to be fully vaccinated against the virus to receive a visa and enter the country.

Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as he celebrates victory at the 2021 Australian Open.

Tiley also said that Russian and Belarusian players will be able to participate under a neutral flag at the upcoming Australian Open.

Tennis authorities had banned athletes from both countries from competing in international team competitions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year – they were allowed to play in regular tour events.

While the French Open and US Open allowed them to compete as neutrals, Wimbledon imposed an outright ban on then world no. 1 As a result, Daniil Medvedev was unable to compete.

“At this time, Russian and Belarusian players will be eligible to play in the Australian Open,” Tiley said. “The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia, they cannot represent the flag of Russia.

“They cannot participate in any activities such as the Russian anthem and must play as independent players with a neutral name. But they will be welcome at the Australian Open in January.”

The 2023 Australian Open starts on Monday 16 January in Melbourne.

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