Modest percentage of Australians back Novak Djokovic’s return next month

Novak Djokovic press conference

Novak Djokovic has been granted permission to enter Australia for the first Grand Slam event of 2023, but it seems plenty of locals will not be ready to welcome him back to Melbourne.

Djokovic was deported from Australia last January after confusion over his attempts to enter the country despite his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

While the defending champion was initially informed he would be allowed to enter Australia on a medical exception, authorities then reversed that decision and plunged the Serbian star into a political storm.

It ended when he was removed from Australia and that decision appeared to block his return to the country for the next three years, which is the standard procedure for anyone deported from the country.

Yet the decision was made last month to lift Djokovic’s ban and allow him into Australia next month by the nation’s Immigration Minister Andrew Giles.

Now a survey by the Sydney Morning Herald has suggested only 30 per-cent of Australians agree with the decision to allow Djokovic back into Australia.

The survey also suggested 41 per cent believe he should not be allowed to stay and play in the Australian Open, down from 71 percent in January.

The numbers confirm there is less opposition to Djokovic playing in Melbourne Park than there was at the start of 2022, the numbers in this survey suggest the memories of the deportation saga have left a lasting scar on his reputation.

That may well be more significant with non-tennis fans, who were most vocal in their opposition to Djokovic coming into the country without a vaccine.

With most of the world treating Covid very differently than it did at the start of 2022, former British No 1 Annabel Croft told Tennis365 that the time has come for Djokovic to be allowed to play in all events next year.

He missed all north American hard court events and the US Open due to his Covid vaccine stance, but Croft believes the door should now be open for Djokovic to have a full schedule from this point forward.

“I think it’s appalling what’s happened and the way it’s turned out (for Djokovic),” she told us.

“I just think the whole thing is a mess. With all the goings on with points and Russian players, it just feels like there is a lot to sort out. One of the most tumultuous years we have had in tennis.”

Djokovic has spoken of his relief after he was allowed to return to Australia, as he targets big success in the new year.

“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,” he said of the decision to grant him a travel visa.

“I could not receive better news for sure. 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.

“When it comes to goals and ambitions, they are always the highest for me.

“At this stage of my career, I have to be less humble and modest when I talk about goals.

“Throughout my career I was very fortunate to win the biggest trophies in our sport, so I feel that winning Torino and winning the best tournaments in the world that I still allow myself to dream big.

“The big goals are the Grand Slam events and the Masters 1000 events when I get a chance to play.

“Also playing for my country awakes some amazing emotions for me.

“The biggest goal is to try and stay healthy and perform at the highest level because I don’t see myself playing professional tennis and not being one of the candidates to win a Grand Slam or being one of the top sports in the world.”