Novak Djokovic gets biggest boost yet in bid to return to Australia

Novak Djokovic pumps his fist on court.
Reports have suggested Novak Djokovic will be permitted to return to Australia by the federal government, after he was banned from the country for three years. (Photo by Shi Tang/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic will most likely be granted permission to return to Australia by the federal government ahead of next year's Australian Open, reports have suggested.

The Serbian former world No.1 was given a three year ban from the country in January 2022 after attempting to enter under what was later determined to be an invalid exemption from being vaccinated against COVID-19.

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The three year ban was issued by former Immigration Minister Alex Hawke during the previous government, with Djokovic's visa status presenting a quandary for the Anthony Albanese government.

Djokovic has maintained his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, even as it cost him opportunities to compete not only on Melbourne, but also at the US Open.

However The Guardian has reported Djokovic's visa ban will most likely be overturned by current immigration minister Andrew Giles, in light of the requirement for overseas travellers to be vaccinated against the virus being dropped earlier this year.

Speaking to reporters after his victory at the ATP Finals in Turin earlier in the week, Djokovic said he had heard 'nothing official yet' from the Australian government but he and his team remained in contact.

“We are waiting. They are communicating with the government of Australia. That’s all I can tell you for now," he told reporters.

It comes as Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is increasingly bullish about Djokovic's chances of competing at next year's Open.

With Wednesday marking two months before the 2023 Open gets underway in Melbourne, the stalemate is hardly ideal but Tiley is hopeful tennis fans - and Djokovic - will not have to endure a re-run of this year's soap opera.

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Tiley, though, is adamant he will not get involved as the 'will he or won't he' saga rages on.

"There's a normal visa application process that everyone is going through right now, and everyone will go through the right timing," Tiley told AAP.

"I don't think there should be any preferential treatment for anyone.

"But I fully expect to have an answer for everyone by the time that they need to book their flights and come in, including Novak.

"That's entirely up to the Australian government. 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 but the timing (on any announcement) is up to somebody else and we'll just play that one by ear."

Novak Djokovic outclassed Nick Kyrgios to win the Wimbledon final earlier this year, his 21st grand slam victory. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic could return to Melbourne for the Australian Open next year if the federal government decides to overturn his three-year visa ban.

Tiley was caught in the middle of last summer's firestorm, breaking the news to the nine-time champion that he had secured a medical exemption to play at Melbourne Park, only for the then-immigration minister Alex Hawke to personally intervene and boot Djokovic out of Australia.

Despite the fiasco, Tiley says Djokovic bears no hard feelings towards him.

"It's funny, I've spoken to Novak a few times. We caught up and spent some time together in London and he's fine. Our relationship is fine," Tiley said.

"He played the Laver Cup and it was really nice to be able to spend some private time with him.

"He understands the circumstances and everything but he's got to work it out with the federal government. I'm confident they'll reach some arrangement and hopefully it's positive.

"But I don't know that. That's really between he and the feds. But the conditions have changed significantly from where they were a year ago and I'd like to have Novak here.

"I want to have all the best players in the world here."

With AAP

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