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28 Dec, 2022 08:21

Djokovic back in Australia for first time since deportation

The Serb will chase a record-extending 10th title in Melbourne next month
Djokovic back in Australia for first time since deportation

Novak Djokovic has returned to Australia for the first time since he was deported in January following an ugly row surrounding his Covid vaccine status.

Djokovic touched down in Adelaide on Tuesday and has already been seen training on the courts at Memorial Drive ahead of the Adelaide International tournament, which begins on Sunday.

Beyond that, Djokovic will target a record-extending 10th title when the Australian Open begins in Melbourne on January 16.

The Serb had his three-year visa ban overturned by the Australian government in November, paving the way for him to return to a country where he has enjoyed immense success throughout his career.  

The 35-year-old had been facing the threat of not being able to return to Australia after being deported in January because of a dispute over his vaccine stance.

Djokovic had arrived with a medical exemption to compete at the 2022 Australian Open – where he was the defending champion – after recovering from a Covid-19 infection.

But he was detained upon his arrival and ultimately expelled from the country after a court battle and government intervention.

Australian officials claimed Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus could incite “anti-vaccine” sentiment within the country.

However, Australia has since removed vaccine requirements for visitors, and officials overturned any barriers to Djokovic’s re-entry in November.

In Djokovic’s absence, Rafael Nadal won the 2022 title at Melbourne Park by defeating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Nadal has since moved onto 22 Grand Slam titles with victory at the French Open – one title ahead of Djokovic, who captured his 21st Grand Slam with success at Wimbledon in the summer.

Approaching the 2023 Australian Open, Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said he had “a great deal of confidence” that fans would welcome Djokovic back with open arms.

“We’re a very well-educated sporting public, particularly those who come to the tennis, they love their tennis, they love seeing greatness, they love seeing great athleticism, great matches,” said Tiley.

“And I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react like we hope they would react and have respect for that.”

Speaking after receiving his visa clearance in November, Djokovic said he was “very happy” to be returning to Australia.

“I’m always thankful to go through experiences, no matter what the experiences are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life,” said Djokovic.

“I look forward to starting the new year in Australia, and we’ll see how the next year goes.”