Novak Djokovic welcome at Australian Open, tournament director says; Russian and Belarusian players can compete – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – Novak Djokovic would be welcome to play at the Australian Open if he could get a visa, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.

The former world No. 1 was expelled from Australia in January after a lengthy saga including a period in detention that prevented him from playing this year’s Australian Open for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Under Australian law, Djokovic could be expelled from the country for three years due to the circumstances surrounding his deportation, although Home Secretary Karen Andrews did not rule out an exception at the time.

Tiley said on Wednesday that the Australian Open could not intercede for Djokovic on the matter, while stating he had not been in contact with the Australian government over the 21 Grand Slam winner’s visa.

If Djokovic can get a visa, Tiley said the nine-time Australian Open winner will be allowed to play in the first Grand Slam of 2023.

“At this point, Novak and the federal government need to clarify the situation, and after that we will follow all instructions,” Tiley told reporters.

“It is not an issue for which we can lobby. It’s a thing that definitely stays between the two and depending on the result we would then welcome him to the Australian Open.”

Tiley added: “(Djokovic) said that of course he would love to return to Australia but he knows it will be a final decision for the federal government.

“He accepted this position. It’s a private matter between them but we’d happily welcome Novak back – he’s a nine-time champion – provided he meets the correct entry requirements for Australia.”

The Serb also did not play at this year’s US Open as he remains unvaccinated against Covid-19 and US rules at the time stipulated that any non-US citizen must be fully vaccinated against the virus in order to be granted a visa and to enter the country.

Neutral flag
Tiley also said that Russian and Belarusian neutral flag players will be allowed to compete in the upcoming Australian Open.

Tennis authorities had banned athletes from both countries from competing in international team competitions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year – allowing them to play in regular tour events.

While the French Open and US Open allowed them to compete as neutrals, Wimbledon imposed an outright ban – then world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev was banned from participating.

“At this point, Russian and Belarusian players are eligible to play at the Australian Open,” Tiley said. “The only difference will be that they cannot represent Russia – they cannot represent the flag of Russia.

“They cannot participate in activities like the Anthem of Russia and have to play as independent players under a neutral name. But they will be welcome at the Australian Open in January.”

The Australian Open 2023 begins on Monday 16 January in Melbourne.

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Sarah Y. Kim

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