Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa ban is set to be overturned, meaning he is able to play in next January’s Australian Open.
He faced a three-year exclusion period after his high-profile deportation in January 2022, but the ban has now been overturned by the Australian Border Force and immigration minister Andrew Giles.
It means that Djokovic is likely to go to Australia to compete for his 10th Australian Open title and a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam victory. His rival for the most Grand Slams, Rafael Nadal, will come into the tournament as the defending champion, if he competes.
In January this year, Djokovic came to Australia unsure of whether he would be allowed to play in the Open. When he arrived, the government revoked his visa on the grounds that a recent Covid diagnosis did not justify an exemption to the nation’s strict health rules. He was held under armed guard and stripped of his phone, and there were allegations from the Serbian government that the tennis player was being scapegoated.
He won a temporary reprieve, but after the revelation that Djokovic had potentially falsified his Covid information, the then immigration minister, Alex Hawke, cancelled the visa again. He argued that it was “in the public interest” because the player was “perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiment” and that his presence could lead to “civil unrest”.
Djokovic then lost a second federal court case, leading to his deportation days before the tournament began, which left question marks over his involvement in future Australian Opens.
However, the country has now overturned its requirement for visitors to be vaccinated. The change in rules meant that Djokovic was allowed to ask for his visa status to be reviewed and he implied at the ATP Finals in Turin that the Australian government was communicating with his lawyers.
I hope that Mr Djokovic has some regret about some elements of his conduct
– Peter Dutton, Liberal Party Leader
It has now been confirmed that the ban has been overturned, although Giles’ office declined to comment on privacy grounds. Djokovic is yet to publicly comment, but Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said that he was confident Djokovic would play in the tournament next year. He said, “I know Novak wants to come and play and to get back to competing. He loves Australia and it’s where he’s had the best success.”
Peter Dutton, leader of the opposition Liberal Party, has welcomed the decision, but said he hopes Djokovic will express some remorse about his conduct earlier in the year.
“I think it’s appropriate that Novak’s invited here. We’re going to have a great Australian Open. It’s always a great sporting event for Melbourne, for our country.
I suspect that in hindsight I hope that Mr Djokovic has some regret about some elements of his conduct and the rest. But the fact is that we’re a couple of years down the track now and it will be good to see him playing great tennis here in Australia.”