Novak Djokovic ‘welcome’ at 2023 Australian Open, but ‘needs to work with government’ to get ban lifted

Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action

Novak Djokovic will be allowed to play at the 2023 Australian Open should his visa ban be overturned, but tournament director Craig Tiley has made it clear that organiers won’t lobby on the Serbian’s behalf to get the ban lifted.

The nine-time Melbourne champion was unable to defend his title at the start of the year after he was deported from the country following a prolonged visa saga.

After two court cases and time in an immigration facility, the unvaccinated Djokovic was ordered to leave the country on the back of then immigration minister Alex Hawke’s decision to use his personal powers to revoke his visa for a second time over fears he could “excite anti-vax sentiment”.

It resulted in an automatic three-year visa ban, but there had been talk that the government could scrap the ban after Australia lifted its vaccination restrictions for foreigners, which would pave the way for Djokovic to compete in 2023.

Tiley, who doubles up as Tennis Australia CEO, says Djokvoic will be free to play at next year’s season-opening Grand Slam if he gets clearance from the government, but admitted there won’t be any lobbying from tennis authorities.

“The matter with Novak is direct between himself and the federal government,” he said. “They need to work out the situation and then we’ll follow any instruction after that.

“It’s not a matter we can lobby on. It’s a matter that definitely stays between the two of them and then depending on the outcome of that we would welcome him to the Australian Open.”

The 21-time Grand Slam winner also missed North American hard-court swing, including the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York, due to entry requirements for unvaccinated foreigners travelling to the United States, but he has made it clear he won’t change his stance.

There was also opposition to Djokovic returning to Australia earlier this week as Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said it would be “a slap in the face” of those who got vaccinated if the ban was waived, adding the “visa ban shouldn’t be lifted because someone has money”.

Tiley, though, is staying out of the politics, but he did speak to Djokovic at the recent Laver Cup in London and it is clear the Serbian wants to return to Australia.

“He said that he’d love to come back to Australia, but he knows it’s going to be an ultimate decision for the federal government,” he said.

“He’s accepted that position. It’s a private matter between them but we’d like to welcome Novak back – he’s a nine-time champion – provided he gets the right entry requirements into Australia.”

Tiley added: “If you notice, he is playing a lot of tennis at the end of the year in anticipation and hope there is a successful outcome with his application. But that is up to him.”