Australia has granted Novak Djokovic permission to play at the Australian Open. This lifts a three-year ban that was placed on him in January after he was denied vaccination against Covid.
Officials confirmed on Tuesday that the cancellation of his visa — a decision made by Australia’s previous government, on the eve of the last Open — had been revoked by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. Djokovic is now free to apply to a new visa. This approval is expected to happen quickly.
The decision was taken previously reported by The GuardianThe reflects the changes that have taken place since Australia dropped its requirement for coronavirus vaccinations in July. It also shows how keen its tennis fans are to return to normal.
The Open is Australia’s premier international sporting event. For years, its organizers have worked to make it especially player-friendly, to compete with older, more respected majors like Wimbledon — and the messy detention and deportation of Mr. Djokovic, who had said he believed that a prior Covid infection would be enough to exempt him from Australia’s vaccination requirement, did not help.
The Australian Open organizers and Mr. Djokovic have indicated that they hope the affair can be over. Tournament officials however, stated they will not lobby the government for an exception for Mr. Djokovic.
On Monday night, Mr. Djokovic, who had won his opening match at the ATP Finals Turin in Turin on Monday, told reporters that he was still hopeful of an Australian green light.
“We are waiting. They are communicating with the government of Australia,” He stated. “That’s all I can tell you for now.”
Craig Tiley, Open director, expressed optimism Tuesday and suggested that the Serbian star would play. “There’s a normal visa application process that everyone is going through right now, and everyone will go through the right timing,” He stated.
Mr. Djokovic’s likely return to Australia has already been welcomed by his fans. One user on Twitter posted a video of fireworksIt was jokingly said that this was Belgrade’s scene when the news broke. Winning a 22nd Grand Slam title in Australia would tie Mr. Djokovic with Rafael Nadal for the most singles wins in men’s tennis.
Many of his fellow players have been upset that the rules have marginalized him. Mr. Djokovic is very popular with them. Australia’s decision could go a long way toward helping the Open regain its status among players as the so-called “Happy Slam.”
Mr. Nadal won last year’s Open after Mr. Djokovic was deported, beating Daniil Medvedev In a win that lasted five hours and 24 minutes, many consider it a victory for history. It appears that Mr. Djokovic will now try to write his own history.
After Australia deported him, he had a difficult recovery. He struggled to find his rhythm on the court and to feel comfortable. He found his stride again during the clay court season, when Europe eased its restrictions on unvaccinated individuals.
These rules were relaxed, which allowed him to be less of a pariah while allowing the tennis focus to return. He won his seventh title in singles at Wimbledon. It was his 21st overall.
As tennis switched to North American hard courts, his year was halted. This was because the United States still prohibited unvaccinated immigrants from entering the country. He was unable to play in the U.S. Open where he would have been amongst the favorites.
He hasn’t said if he has been vaccinated in the past, but it seems unlikely. Djokovic spoke at Wimbledon. “I’m not vaccinated. I have no plans to get vaccinated.”
Mr. Djokovic said in February to BBC that his decision on the coronavirus vaccination was personal. It was about his freedom to choose what his body ingests. He stated that he didn’t want to be associated in any way with anti-vaccination movements.
Mr. Djokovic has had to scramble to qualify for this week’s ATP Finals in Turin, in part because being unvaccinated forced him to miss so many events and because the ATP Tour did not award any rankings points for Wimbledon, a punishment for that tournament’s decision to prohibit players from Russia and Belarus from competing.
Mr. Djokovic was victorious over Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece on Monday night. He credited his experience at Wimbledon for giving him the confidence and ability to play against the best players in the world with very little preparation.
“It always comes, really, throughout my career, at exactly the time that I need it to come,” Wimbledon was his favorite. “It was a huge relief, but at the same time also a huge boost of confidence.”