Novak Djokovic has said he has been given “positive signs” that he will be allowed to enter Australia and compete in the Australian Open in January despite being under a three-year visa ban.
The Serbian, whose ban was imposed along with his deportation for his potential to cause “civil unrest” as a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment”, said these indications were on an “unofficial” basis.
He added that he should have confirmation in “the next few weeks” of whether he will be allowed in.
Djokovic was the world No 1 when he landed in Melbourne believing he had been granted exemption from the need to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Instead his visa was cancelled by the Australian Border Force and he was held at a detention hostel.
After much legal argument and huge media coverage Djokovic was deported with a three-year visa ban imposed. He subsequently missed the US Open too as he was not allowed entry into the United States, but won Wimbledon for his 21st grand slam.
The nine-times Melbourne champion told Serbian website Sportal: “When it comes to Australia, there are some positive signs, but unofficially. We are communicating through my lawyers in Australia. In fact, they are communicating with the authorities in charge of my case.
“I hope to have an answer in the next few weeks – whatever that answer might be, but of course I am hoping for a positive one – so that I have enough time to prepare for the start of the season, if that start is going to happen in Australia.
“I really want to go there, I am over what happened this year and I just want to play tennis, it is what I do best. Australia has always been the place where I have played my best tennis, the results speak for themselves, so I am always extra motivated to go there. This time even more so. I am hoping for a positive answer.”
Djokovic, who remains unvaccinated, added: “For the choices I made, I knew there would be certain consequences like not going to America. For Australia it was a different case, I had the exception, but in the end it did not work out. We know what happened, let’s not go back.
“This time I am waiting for the permission again. It is a good thing that they have now opened the borders for the unvaccinated foreigners travelling to Australia. I have that ban, I hope it will be lifted. As I said, it is not in my hands, I hope the people in the Australian Government will give a positive answer, that is all.”
Since Djokovic’s ban was imposed the Australian government has changed and Andrew Giles replaced Alex Hawke as immigration minister.
He can grant Djokovic, now ranked world No 7, an exemption, but earlier this month former home affairs boss Karen Andrews argued it would be a “slap in the face” for Australians who abided by strict Covid-19 protocols for two years.
“It was a very interesting year, peculiar,” Djokovic, 35, added. “I always strive to draw positive things from whatever the experience is, that is part of my character and my approach to life. I know that everything that happened in Australia and afterwards – the way people have treated me, which did not feel nice and it is something I have never experienced before in my life – has helped me to learn some valuable lessons.
“Lessons about myself, about life and about the way I should move on in this world, especially in the tennis ecosystem.”