Novak Djokovic would be welcome to play at the Australian Open if he can get a visa, said tournament director Craig Tiley.
The former world No. 1 was deported from Australia in January after a protracted saga, including time in detention, prevented him from competing in this year’s Australian Open due to his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Under Australian law, Djokovic can be banned from the country for three years because of the circumstances surrounding his deportation, although Home Secretary Karen Andrews did not rule out an exemption at the time.
Tiley said on Wednesday that the Australian Open could not lobby on Djokovic’s behalf in the matter, explaining that he has not been in contact with the Australian government over the 21 grand slam winner’s visa.
If Djokovic can get a visa, Tiley said the nine-time winner of the Australian Open would be allowed to play in the first grand slam of 2023.
“Right now, Novak and the federal government need to work out the situation and then we will follow all instructions,” Tiley told reporters.
“It’s not something we can lobby for. It’s an issue that will definitely stay between the two of them and then, depending on the outcome, we would welcome him to the Australian Open.”
Tiley added: “(Djokovic) said of course he would like to come back to Australia but he knows it will be an ultimate decision for the federal government.
“He has accepted that position. It is a private matter between them, but we would like to welcome Novak back – he is a nine-time champion – provided he meets the appropriate entry requirements for Australia.”
The Serb also did not play at the US Open this year, as he has not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 and US rules at the time stipulated that every non-US citizen must be fully vaccinated against the virus in order to obtain a visa and to enter the country.
Tiley also said that Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to compete in the upcoming Australian Open under a neutral flag.
Tennis authorities had banned athletes from both countries from participating in international team competitions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year – allowing them to play at regular tour events.
While the French Open and US Open allowed them to compete as neutral, Wimbledon imposed an outright ban – and as a result, world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev was barred from participating.
“Right now, Russian and Belarusian players are eligible to play in the Australian Open,” Tiley said. “The only difference is that they cannot represent Russia, not the flag of Russia.
“They cannot participate in activities such as Russia’s national anthem and they must play as independent players under a neutral name. But they are welcome at the Australian Open in January.”
The 2023 Australian Open kicks off in Melbourne on Monday, January 16.