Nearly a year after getting deported over his COVID-19 vaccine status, Novak Djokovic is back in Australia in pursuit of a record-extending 10th grand slam title at Australian Open.
Tennis Australia confirmed Wednesday that Djokovic landed in Adelaide the previous night to compete in the 2023 Adelaide International, which begins on Sunday, and the Australian Open which begins early next month.
“Novak is welcome in Australia,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said at a news conference Tuesday. “I think as we speak he has landed in Adelaide, and he’s going to be the player to beat (at the Australian Open) again.”
NOVAK DJOKOVIC POINTS TO ‘POSITIVE SIGNS’ AHEAD OF AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2023: ‘I JUST WANT TO PLAY TENNIS’
Upon landing in Melbourne early last year, Djokovic’s visa was canceled by border officials who said he did not qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.
He was previously exempted from the tournament’s vaccine rules because he had COVID within the previous six months. He later won an appeal to stay for the tournament, but Australia’s immigration minister then revoked his visa.
Three federal court judges ruled in favor of the immigration minister’s right to cancel Djokovic’s visa, and he was deported.
Djokovic has openly defended his choice not to get the vaccine, regardless of what tournaments in 2022 would allow him to compete. He competed at the French Open in May, when he lost in the quarterfinals to Rafael Nadal, and won Wimbledon for his 21st Grand Slam title.
The Serbian tennis pro was not able to travel to the U.S. to compete at the U.S. Open because of travel restrictions, not because of tournament rules.
Tiley said Tuesday that he anticipates Djokovic will be well-received by the Australian fan base.
“We’re a very well-educated sporting public, particularly those who come to the tennis. They love their tennis, they love seeing greatness, they love seeing great athleticism, great matches. And I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react like we hope they would react and have respect for that.”
The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Jan. 16.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.