Novak Djokovic is back in Australia, according to a Tennis Australia spokesperson, almost a year after his high-profile visa ban from the country due to his stance on Covid-19 vaccination.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion is set to open his 2023 tennis season next week in Adelaide for Adelaide International 1. This comes more than a month after Australian officials said Djokovic’s three-year ban to enter the country would be cancelled.
The Serb was deported from Australia in January after former immigration minister Alex Hawke discovered the tennis star posed a risk to public health and order because, as a famous sportsman who had previously expressed his opposition to the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid-19, he could be considered an “icon” for anti-vaccines.
The minister’s decision to expel the former world No.1 men’s player meant he was initially banned from re-entry for three years.
On Monday, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said: “We will welcome him back to Australia.”
As for the reception Djokovic should expect to receive from Australians, Tiley said: “I have great faith in the Australian public. I think we have a very educated sports audience, especially those who come for tennis. They love their tennis. They like to see greatness. They love to see big sports, big games.
“I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react the way we hope they will react and respect that,” he added.
CNN has reached out to the tennis star for comment.
Djokovic has won nine men’s singles titles at the Australian Open, more than anyone in history. He is signed up to play in the 2023 edition next month.
Djokovic’s high-profile visa saga overshadowed the Australian Open earlier this year, pitting one of tennis’ biggest stars against the Australian government and dividing opinion in the country, which had enacted tough border restrictions in the event of a pandemic.
The government revoked the Serb’s visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne on January 5 because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Djokovic said he felt he could enter the country because two independent panels associated with Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government granted him an exemption on the grounds that he had been infected with the virus a few weeks before it arrived.
But the federal government argued that was not a valid reason for an exemption under its rules.
A judge later ruled that border officials had been “unreasonable” when they canceled Djokovic’s visa and ordered his release from a migrant detention centre.
But his visa was later revoked for a second time and after losing his application to challenge the decision, the tennis star left Australia.
Despite returning to action in selected tournaments after the event, the player’s Covid-19 vaccination stance limited his participation in others.
In July, Djokovic won his 21st Grand Slam title by beating Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon.