Novak Djokovic: Australia to overturn three-year visa ban, source says, paving way for Australian Open


Sydney
CNN
 — 

Australia will overturn a three-year ban on tennis player Novak Djokovic entering the country, paving the way for the former world No. 1 to contest the 2023 Australian Open.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Andrew Giles will repeal the ban, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN on Tuesday.

Djokovic was required to make a case to the immigration minister for permission to enter Australia to play in the tournament after being deported earlier this year for failing to obtain an exemption for a then-mandated Covid-19 vaccination.

The source said Giles will rule in Djokovic’s favor, but it is up to the individual to publicize any personal travel information.

Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after former immigration minister Alex Hawke found that he posed a risk to public health and order because, as a celebrity sportsman who had previously expressed opposition to vaccination, he could be seen as an “icon” for anti-vaxxers.

The minister’s decision to deport the player meant he would be banned from re-entry for three years.

Earlier on Tuesday, Tennis Australia’s CEO Craig Tiley said he was hopeful Djokovic will play at the Australian Open in January next year.

“There’s a normal visa application process that everyone is going through right now, and everyone will go through the right timing,” Tiley told told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency.

“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.”

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 pandemic border restrictions.

The government revoked the Serbian’s visa shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on January 5 because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19.

Djokovic said he was under the impression he could enter the country because two independent panels associated with Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government had granted him an exemption on the grounds he had been infected with the virus a few weeks prior to his arrival.

But the federal government argued that was not a valid reason for an exemption under its rules.

A judge later ruled that border officers had been “unreasonable” when they canceled Djokovic’s visa and ordered his release from an immigration detention center.

But his visa was then revoked for a second time and after losing his bid to challenge the decision, the tennis star left Australia shortly after.

Despite his return to action in selected tournaments following the ordeal, the player’s Covid-19 vaccination stance restricted his participation in others.

In July, Djokovic won his 21st grand slam title, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final at Wimbledon.