Former world no.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic will be granted a visa to play at the Australian Open in January 2023, Guardian Australia newspaper and state broadcaster ABC have reported.
The Australian government is to overturn the three-year ban imposed on the unvaccinated Serbian player after his visa was cancelled in January 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic, they reported on Tuesday.
Djokovic, who was already in Melbourne, was deported from Australia, which had strict COVID-19 protocols in place, after losing court appeals. He was chasing his 10th Australian Open title.
The government said that a COVID diagnosis did not justify his medical exemption from the rules, which clearly stated that all visitors must be vaccinated. He was barred from the country until 2025.
According to the ABC report, it had confirmed that Immigration Minister Andrew Giles had overturned that ban, allowing Djokovic to compete.
A spokesperson for Australia’s immigration ministry declined to comment on the reports.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said this month that Djokovic would be welcome in January if he could get a visa, but that Tennis Australia was unable to lobby on his behalf.
In July, the Australian government scrapped a rule that required international travellers to declare their COVID-19 vaccination status. Djokovic said in October that he had received “positive signs” about the status of efforts to overturn his ban.
‘Slap in the face’
Djokovic’s three-year ban can be overturned at the discretion of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left government, which has taken the reins from the conservative coalition in power when the tennis star’s visa was revoked.
Opposition politician Karen Andrews, who was Home Affairs minister when Djokovic was deported, argued that he should not be given special treatment.
“It would be a slap in the face for those people in Australia who did the right thing, got vaccinated, did everything they needed to do, if all of a sudden Novak Djokovic is allowed back into the country simply because he is a high-ranking tennis player with many millions of dollars,” she told ABC radio last month.
If Djokovic does make it Down Under, he will be hoping to win and match Rafael Nadal’s record 22 Grand Slam titles.