Novak Djokovic's secret return to Australia 12 months after deportation

Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia nearly 12 months after he was sensationally deported from the country in January.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here with wife Jelena.
Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia, 12 months after being deported from the country. Image: Getty

Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia ahead of the first grand slam of 2023, nearly 12 months after he was deported from the country last January. The tennis superstar touched down in Australia on Tuesday night ahead of the Adelaide International, which he will use as preparation for the Australian Open.

It comes one year after Djokovic was sensationally deported from Australia in January after having his visa cancelled by the government. He was forced to miss the 2022 Australian Open, with officials cancelling his visa due to his vaccination status.

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The nine-time Australian Open champion was initially facing a ban of three years from the country as a result. However the current government chose to wave that decision and grant him a visa to return for the 2023 edition.

Australia has since lifted requirements for overseas visitors to show proof of vaccination and the country is getting back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic. It means Djokovic could enter the country on Tuesday night free from the media frenzy that greeted his arrival in January.

Djokovic's travel plans were largely a secret, with none of the media and photographers at the airport like we've seen in the past two years. He reportedly left the airport via a back exit and was kept out of the public eye.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley said earlier on Tuesday that he hoped Aussie fans would embrace Djokovic's return. "We welcome him back to Australia," he told reporters. "I think as we speak he's landing in Adelaide and I think that he is going to be again the player to beat.

"I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian public. I have a lot of confidence that the fans will react how we hope they will react."

Novak Djokovic, pictured here after he was deported from Australia in January.
Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia in January. Image: Getty

Tennis Australia confirmed on Tuesday night that Djokovic had arrived in the country. He is set to play the Adelaide International, beginning on Sunday, as he ramps up his preparations for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

"Over the years I've been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there," the World No.5 said in Dubai last week. "After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis."

Djokovic was last in Australia nearly 12 months ago when he claimed he had obtained a medical exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated because he had recently recovered from Covid-19. But Australian border officials said he didn't meet the requirements to be exempted and he was subsequently detained for five days before being deported.

Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal begin Australian Open prep

In his absence at Melbourne Park, Spanish champion Rafa Nadal swept past Daniil Medvedev to win the Australian Open in an epic five-set final. Djokovic will be out for revenge in 2023, with Nadal currently sitting one grand slam title ahead of him in the all-time race (22 to 21).

Nadal will begin his Australian Open preparations in Sydney at the inaugural United Cup, a new mixed-gender teams event. He will likely face Nick Kyrgios in a blockbuster showdown when Australia plays Spain in the second round.

Meanwhile, Tiley said he hopes a 'happy' Kyrgios can do his best to emulate Ash Barty, who became the first Aussie to win the Australian Open in 44 years in January.

"Playing at home in front of your home crowd and expected to win - that's why I think one of the greatest wins we've seen here at Melbourne Park was Ash Barty," Tiley said. "It's a very difficult thing to do ... only they (players) can talk about it, but responding to the pressure is not that straightforward.

"We would love to see Nick do well. For us, it's just day-by-day and him staying healthy, enjoying the competition. I believe if Nick comes out and has some fun while he's doing it, and has an opportunity to play his best tennis, that would be great."

with agencies

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