Aussie politician shuts down Djokovic return, claims ‘great success’ without Serb
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews claims the Australian Open has been a ‘great success’ without Novak Djokovic and says the world number one could only return to the tournament if he gets vaccinated.
Djokovic lost his standoff with the Australian federal authorities when they canceled his visa for a second time and removed him from the country earlier this month, despite the Serbian ace arriving with a medical exemption to defend his title in Melbourne.
Djokovic’s deportation, which came after the personal intervention of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, means the nine-time Australian Open champion could face a three-year ban on re-entering the country.
But when asked over the weekend if he could foresee Djokovic returning to Melbourne Park in 2023, Australian Open director Craig Tiley replied “yes”.
“Obviously I think he’s got to play out this year but that will be his intention,” added Tiley, who has come in for significant criticism for his role in the debacle.
“At the end of the day he’s the number one player in the world and he loves the Australian Open.”
“(But) it’s really important to note that … there’s no one person, there’s no organization that is bigger than the event itself.”
When asked about Tiley’s comments that Djokovic could be back Down Under in one year’s time, the premier of Victoria state – where the tennis showpiece is hosted – was much less accommodating.
“My position is very clear. You want to come here, get vaccinated. It’s pretty simple,” said local premier Andrews.
Djokovic, who recovered from a Covid infection in December, had been granted a vaccine exemption by Tennis Australia and Victoria state after his case was assessed by two separate medical panels.
But Andrews asserted that the Serb should have followed the likes of fellow 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, who is fully vaccinated and competing in Melbourne, where he is into the quarterfinals.
“Rafa (Nadal) had it right. It could all have been avoided if he just got vaccinated,” said Andrews.
“That fellow (Djokovic) might think he’s bigger than the tournament. He’s not. That’s why the tournament’s happening without him. And it’s a great success.
“To Mr Tiley and all of his team, I wish them well as they enter the second week. This is a major event. It’s the biggest thing in tennis in the first quarter of every year. Melbourne, London, New York and Paris are connected by some things. One of them is tennis, Grand Slam tennis.
“This event is much bigger than any one person. There was one person who thought differently. He’s not in the country. And the tournament’s happening, so that’s fantastic,” added Andrews.
For Djokovic to avoid a three-year exile from Australia, officials have said there would have to be “compelling reasons” for the 34-year-old to be allowed to return.
By being deported, the Serbian star was deprived of the chance to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open title.
Djokovic also could have had the opportunity to claim an all-time record 21st Grand Slam crown, which would have moved him ahead of Nadal and Roger Federer in the standings.