Craig Tiley salutes Australian public for welcoming ‘nervous’ Novak Djokovic back with open arms

Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.

Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley has described the Australian sporting public as “the fairest in the world” for treating Novak Djokovic with respect following his return to the country.

Djokovic infamously missed his Australian Open title defence in 2022 after he was deported from the country due to his unvaccinated status with the then immigration minister using his personal powers to revoke his visa for a second time due to fears he would stoke anti-vax sentiment in the country.

It resulted in an automatic three-year ban from the country, but the decision was overturned in November last year after a change of government and he made his return Down Under in January.

Tiley has revealed that Djokovic was a little uneasy about his Australian comeback.

“This was a particularly emotional year for Novak. I could see the tension on his face when I saw him the first time,” he said on the AO Show.

“We had met a few times last year and I knew that he was feeling nervous about coming back to Australia. He was very nervous when he first arrived and flew directly into Adelaide. There was a lot of press and talk around him coming in and being booed.”

The Serbian first took part in the Adelaide International in South Australia and there was talk that the public would give him a hard time following last year’s debacle, but it wasn’t the case.

He then flew to Melbourne for the Australian Open and again he received a warm welcome from the public.

Djokovic ended up winning both tournaments with his Melbourne Park title earning him a 10th Australian Open crown and helping him to draw level with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slams.

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Tiley added: “You need to give credit to the Australian sporting public that enjoys the sport. We are the fairest in the world. When we are observing greatness, we respect it and cheer accordingly. That’s exactly what happened and he was really welcomed back.

“He went through a tough time last year for a number of different reasons, primarily driven by his own choice. But he came and once he got settled in Adelaide, South Australia did a magnificent job in welcoming him.”

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